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Your Privacy: Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is personal health information (PHI)?​

Personal health information is "identifying information" collected about an individual. It is information about an individual's health or health care history in relation to:​

  • The provision of health care to the individual, including the identification of the healthcare provider to the individual;
  • A plan of service within the meaning of the Home Care and Community Services Act, 1994 for the individual;
  • Payments or eligibility for health care in respect of the individual;
  • Donations by the individual of any body part or bodily substance or is derived from the testing or examination of any such body part or bodily substance;
  • Individual's health card number,
  • An individual's substitute decision-maker

2. What is the Personal Health Information Protection Act?​

The Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) is Ontario's health-specific privacy legislation. PHIPA will governs the manner in which personal health information may be collected, used and disclosed within the health care system. It also regulates individuals and organizations that receive personal information from health care professionals.​

3. What will UHN use and disclose my personal 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. ​

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.

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 fulfil the requirements for an approved study or purpose.

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 raising funds for research, medical education and the improvement of patient care. If you do not want to be contacted for fundraising, contact the UHN Privacy Office or the appropriate UHN foundation.​

4. Who does UHN share my health information with?​

UHN is required and permitted under the law to share your personal health information with other organizations such as Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Toronto Public Health and Cancer Care Ontario.

Information may also be shared with clinicians outside of UHN (and staff who support these clinicians) who are directly 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 PHIPA. Information may be sent to external care providers in many ways, including through electronic systems.​

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

UHN only discloses your personal health information in accordance with the law and/or with patient consent.​

6. How do I access my personal health information (PHI)?

If you want to access your personal health information, your options include:

​You should speak with your health care provider about any information that you want to know and they can assist you on how to get access to your health information. ​

  • ​You can register for the myUHN patient portal which is a secure website where you can access some of your personal health record anywhere, anytime on a computer, smartphone or tablet. Talk to your health care provider about getting a Registration Code, call myUHN Support at 416 340 3777 for more information about myUHN Patient Portal.
  • If the information you are looking for is not on myUHN’s patient portal, or if you want to get a copy of your records, you will be referred to UHN’s Health Records department to obtain or view your UHN patient record. Health Records will ask you to present the proper form of identification in order for you to access your chart. There is an administrative fee for copies of your record based on the current fee schedule.

7. If I sign up for a myUHN Patient Portal account, will others be able to access my information online?

If you choose to sign up for a myUHN account, only you will have access to your health information on the website. myUHN Patient Portal is a secure website that uses encryption technology (like banking websites) and has strict password and security question rules. No one else can sign into your account unless you choose to share your password and security question answers with others.

Your health care team already has access to your health information through the electronic systems at UHN, not through your portal account. If you would like more information about myUHN Patient Portal call myUHN Support at 416 340 3777. ​

8. Can my family see my health information?

Your family/friend can only see your see your personal health information with your consent or if they are an appointed Substitute Decision Maker (SDM).​

9. 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.​

10. 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.​

11. Can my family physician access my UHN health information?

UHN releases relevant PHI to your family physician and also will notify them if you have been admitted to UHN for care. ​

12. 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 complete Privacy training and sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment.
  2. Physical Safeguards: UHN has a number of physical safeguards, which range from locked doors and filing cabinets 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.

13. Will my family or friends be able to call the hospital to get information about me over the phone?​

UHN staff have no way to verify the identity of the caller. Therefore, in order to protect patient privacy, only a minimal amount of information is given out over the phone. This includes:

  • The fact that the individual is a patient in the facility
  • The individual’s general health status described as critical, poor, fair, stable or satisfactory, or in similar terms
  • The location of the individual in the facility

How does an individual initiate a complaint?

An individual who feels his/her privacy rights under PHIPA have been violated has the right to submit a written complaint to UHN's Privacy Office. All privacy complaints will be treated in a confidential manner.

An individual may also submit a written complaint to the Information Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

Information and Privacy Commissioner / Ontario
2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M4W 1A8
1-416-326-3333
1-800-387-0073
​www.ipc.on.ca​