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Your Privacy: Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

What does UHN use my health information for?

UHN uses your information for the delivery of direct patient care, administration of the health care system, research, teaching, statistics, fundraising and to meet legal and regulatory requirements.
Examples of potential uses include:

  • To identify your record quickly and accurately each time you visit the hospital.
  • To provide the most appropriate treatment. Your visit to the hospital may include a number of assessments and treatments. All of this information is recorded in your chart and made available to those involved in your care. UHN keeps a history of your health information for your future care.
  • To comply with legal and regulatory requirements. For example, we collect your health information because it is required to get funding for health care services.
  • To improve the quality and efficiency with which we provide health care services.
  • To support UHN’s research programs. Researchers working on approved studies can have access to health information, provided that consent and privacy issues have been addressed.
  • To support UHN’s educational activities. Health information is available for teaching purposes, with measures taken to protect privacy and confidentiality.
  • To share your contact information with the UHN foundations. Our foundations work to support excellence in health care by raising funds for medical research, medical education and the improvement of patient care. You can request not to be contacted by calling 416 946 2114.

Can I request that UHN not collect or use my health information for any of the following purposes: the delivery of direct patient care, the administration of the health care system, to conduct research, teaching, statistics, meeting legal and regulatory requirements, or fundraising?

UHN cannot adequately deliver care without the necessary information. The UHN Privacy Policy states that we will only collect the information we need for the appropriate episode of care you are undergoing. For more information or to request a copy of the Privacy Policy, please contact the Privacy Office. View the full UHN Privacy Policy.

UHN is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. As a teaching institution, UHN uses health information for the purposes of research and teaching. UHN personnel may only collect and use the minimum amount of information necessary to fulfill the requirements for an approved study or purpose. Before researchers may access this information, UHN removes as much identifying information as possible. For example, you would always be asked if you want to be in a clinical trial or any other research that may have a direct impact on your care.

UHN is required to report certain pieces of information to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (billing information), the Canadian Institute for Health Information (coded discharge abstracts), Health Canada (public health surveillance) and Cancer Care Ontario (pathology reports). This is done to ensure the health care system is running optimally and to conduct statistical comparisons of population health characteristics over a broad geographical range.
The collection, uses, disclosures and retentions described above are required as an ongoing component of UHN’s ability to provide health care to the population it serves, while working to enhance the health status of Canadians.

From time to time, you may be contacted by one of the UHN foundations. The foundations are dedicated to supporting excellence in health care by raising funds for research, medical education and the improvement of patient care. You may request to be removed from our fundraising contact list at any point in time by contacting the UHN Privacy Office or the appropriate UHN foundation.

Who does UHN give my health information to?

UHN is required to send copies of patient information to several other organizations. This includes the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Toronto Public Health and Cancer Care Ontario.

Information may also be shared with clinicians outside of UHN (and staff who support these clinicians) who aredirectly involved in caring for our patients. UHN places appropriate safeguards on the transmission of all information disclosed to other organizations and seeks to ensure that health information protection measures are in place and in accordance with the Ontario Health Information Protection Act. Information may be sent to external care providers in many ways, including through electronic systems.

To learn more about the systems that UHN supports please visit the following:

  • SIMS Partners
  • Joint Department of Medical Imaging
  • ConnectingGTA
  • Resource Matching & Referral
  • GTA West Diagnostic Imaging Repository
  • eStroke
  • Does UHN ever sell patient information to drug companies or anyone else?

    UHN does not sell patient information to drug companies or to anyone else.

    Will UHN disclose my health information to any outside company or my employer?

    UHN requires patient consent or a court order to disclose health information to any organization or person not directly involved with the provision of patient care. UHN will ensure that proper controls are in place to only disclose what is required.

    Can I access my health information?

    You have a right to access your personal health information, and UHN has an obligation to make it available to you, with limited exceptions. Exceptions are made if releasing your information would put yourself or a third party at risk – UHN may choose not to disclose some or all of that information.

    Where do I go to access my health information?

    When you are a patient at UHN, you should ask your health care provider for information that you want to know. If your request is voluminous or substantial or not covered by the information available to the attending health care provider, you will be referred to UHN’s Health Records. After you have left UHN, you will need to contact Health Records to obtain or view your UHN patient record. Please allow a reasonable amount of time for UHN to locate your record.

    Health Records will ask you to present the proper form of identification in order for you to access your chart. You may access your own personal information, however, you may not access third-party information (information about individuals other than yourself) that may be in your patient chart. If your chart contains third-party information, it may take up to 30 days to have this information removed from your chart so that you may view it. 

    There is no charge for access, but there is a processing fee associated with requesting a photocopy of the chart.

    Can my family see my health information?

    Although you have the right to access your charts, this right does not automatically extend to family members and/or friends. If you consent to let a friend or family member see your chart, then the friend/family member may access the part(s) that you have consented to let them see.

    What if I am unable to give consent?

    If you are unable to give consent for a friend or family member to access your chart due to reasons of competency or consciousness, the consent decision falls to the appointed substitute decision maker, such as a parent or guardian. This person is bound by law to act on your behalf and must make decisions based on their belief of what you would wish done if you were able to decide.

    Can all UHN staff access my patient record?

    Only UHN staff involved in your care may access your patient record. All UHN staff are bound by a strict confidentiality agreement, which is signed as a condition of employment. This agreement seeks to ensure staff only access information on a need-to-know basis.

    Can my family physician access my UHN health information?

    UHN releases discharge summaries to family physicians. UHN will release other information to your family physician to support your care.

    Can I find out who has viewed my UHN patient chart?

    Yes. If you have concerns about unauthorized personnel accessing your information, you can make a request to the Privacy Office or Patient Relations to view all accesses to your UHN patient chart. The UHN Privacy Office will provide this information to you in a timely manner. If you have further concerns upon receipt of your audit report, you may make a complaint to the UHN Corporate Privacy Officer who will pursue the issue on your behalf.

    Is my health information available on the Internet?

    No, health information is not publicly available on the Internet. UHN may use the Internet to transfer unidentifiable health information securely through the Virtual Private Network or email system. These systems are secured by a combination of authentication and encryption.

    How is my health information protected?

    There are 3 components to protecting patient information at UHN:

    1. Administrative Safeguards: The UHN Privacy Policy governs the manner in which all UHN care providers and other employees manage patient information. Furthermore, all UHN employees must sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment.

    2. Physical Safeguards: UHN has a number of physical safeguards, which range from locked doors to staff wearing photo identification to identify themselves as UHN employees.

    3. Technical Safeguards: UHN’s technical department upgrades the security capabilities of the patient information system on an ongoing basis. We have implemented role-based access controls to ensure staff may access information only on a need-to-know basis. The UHN patient information system also uses passwords to protect the system from inappropriate accesses from within and a firewall to protect our system from users on the Internet.

    When I called the hospital to see how my family member was doing, the UHN staff would not describe what the problem with my family member was or their condition. Why is that?

    When you call UHN, staff has no way to verify that you are who you say you are. Therefore, in order to protect patient privacy, only a minimal amount of information is given out over the phone.

    I have noticed that many areas of the hospital are open, and I can sometimes overhear staff talking to patients or family about health information. Is this not a breach of patient privacy?

    Despite the pressures of an acute-care hospital setting, staff make every effort to discuss health information confidentially.

    Where is my UHN patient record stored and for how long?

    A core record of your care at UHN is maintained in a central electronic patient record. Many departments within UHN, including Radiology and some of the clinics you may visit, also maintain an additional record of your personal health information.

    In general, patient records are kept for 10 years past the date of last admission. For the purpose of research, some patient groups’ medical records are kept for longer.​