Mb: Patient access rights strengthened with new amendments to PHI Act

New amendments to the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) will improve patient access rights and privacy standards by helping Manitobans understand how to access their personal health information and how it is shared with others, creating a stronger culture of patient care and safety in the health-care system, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today.

“These changes, based on valuable guidance from patient safety advocates and members of the public, will ensure patients and their loved ones have faster access to their health records,” said Oswald. “Having up-to-date information will help patients and their families become more involved in decisions about their medical care, and this will help reduce errors and improve care.”

The changes to PHIA will:

  • require a hospital to respond to a request from an inpatient as soon as reasonably possible, but no later than 24 hours from receiving the request for access to information about care currently being provided;
  • require providers in all other settings, including for hospital outpatients and in personal care homes, doctors offices and other community health services, to respond to requests for information about care currently being provided within 72 hours of receiving the request;
  • require patients be provided with information about their rights to access their personal health information and authorize another person to access that information on their behalf;
  • clarify the consent needed before a patient’s personal health information can be shared;
  • permit the disclosure of information to police services to help them locate an individual reported as missing;
  • permit the disclosure of information about current health-care services to family members and close friends of a patient when those services are being provided in the individual’s home; and
  • permit the disclosure of patient information to community clergy who provide spiritual care to their congregations in hospitals or personal-care homes and to health-facility fundraising foundations for charitable purposes, while at the same time respecting a patient’s right to object to having their information shared.

“These changes are a major step forward for patient safety,” said Laurie Thompson, executive director of the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety. “ The amendments ensure that patients, families and their advocates, who are indispensable partners in care, will have access to information when they need it most.”

The amendments come into effect on May 1.

Manitoba Health and the ombudsman’s office are developing a brochure and poster on how Manitobans can access their personal health information and how this information may be accessed by others. These documents will be available by May 1 at a wide range of health care facilities and at http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/phia/.

The act applies broadly to the health-care sector in Manitoba including hospitals, personal-care homes, regional health authorities, health professionals and other health-care organizations.  It also applies to government departments and other public bodies across the province that hold personal health information.

Many of the amendments are based on suggestions collected from individual Manitobans and organizations during a review of the PHIA in 2004.

Source: Province of Manitoba

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