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Guess Who? The obligation to disclose staff names in audit reporting

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Key takeaway message: When a patient asks for an audit of their health record, you must disclose the names of staff that appear those audit reports, even if those staff did not provide health care. If the disclosure of the name would result in economic harm or a serious threat to health or safety then you can redact the name.

In Decision 159, a parent made access requests to Public Health Ontario (PHO) for laboratory tests for Lyme disease. The request included the names of staff members who accessed her and her children’s electronic health record.

PHO provided audit reports showing when the health records in the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) electronic database were accessed, the operational role of the applicable staff member, and the reason for access, but did not include staff names. This was their usual practice, because the names of PHO staff are only recorded for quality assurance and laboratory accreditation purposes, rather than to identify a person as a provider of health care.

The IPC ordered PHO to provide the audit reports with staff names included.

The IPC determined that if a record is dedicated primarily to the personal health information of the individual and the personal health information in the records is central to the purpose for which the records exist, the individual has a right of access to the entire record, even if it incidentally contains information about other matters or other parties. If a record is not dedicated primarily to the personal health information of one individual, the right of access applies only to information about the individual that can be reasonably severed from the record.

The PHO was not able to provide evidence to substantiate a risk of harm to its economic interests or a serious threat to the health or safety of an individual. Speculative risks or those that are merely possible are insufficient to trigger an exception.

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