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Access to Personal Health Information

The Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)

PHIPA came into effect in Ontario, on November 1, 2004. It prescribes rules for the collection, use,  disclosure, security, transfer, retention and destruction of personal health information (PHI) in all types of healthcare settings, including hospitals, psychiatric facilities, laboratories, ambulance services, and nursing homes. PHIPA applies to all regulated health professionals (doctors, nurses, allied health professionals) and to non-regulated health professionals, who provide healthcare for payment, such as acupuncturists, psychotherapists, and ultrasonographers. PHIPA also gives patients (and Substitute Decision Makers) rights related to access their/the patients’ health records and how their health information is collected, used and disclosed (subject to legal exceptions). PHIPA defines personal health information (PHI) as identifiable information relating to an individual’s health and healthcare history. For example, information contained in medical files such as diagnostic, treatment and care information, OHIP numbers, genetic information and other health record details.

The Personal Health Information Protection Act

Frequently Asked Questions

PHIPA applies to “health information custodians” in Ontario. Health information custodians include hospitals, doctors, healthcare practitioners, long-term care facilities, healthcare clinics, laboratories, pharmacies, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and other health-related organizations. The Act also applies to organizations outside the health system that receive information such as insurance companies, employers and schools.

Personal Health Information is defined as identifying information about an individual whether oral or recorded, if the information:

  • Relates to the physical or mental health of the individual, including information that consists of the individual’s family health history
  • Relates to the providing of healthcare to the individual, including the identification of a person as a provider of health care to the individual
  • Is a plan of service within the meaning of the Long-Term Care Act, 1994 of the individual
  • Relates to payments or eligibility of for healthcare in respect to the individual
  • Relates to the donation by the individual of any body part or bodily substance, or is derived from testing of such body part or substance.
  • Is the individual’s health number or,
  • Identifies the individual’s substitute decision maker

For an individual to obtain access to a deceased patient's personal health record they will need to provide a copy of the death certificate, along with a copy of the last will and testament outlining who the Estate Trustee is. If the individual who is requesting access of the deceased patent's health record is not the Estate Trustee then you will be required to provide a reason for the request. This request can take up to 30 days to complete. See contact information below.

To obtain access to a patient's personal health record we will require a letter outlining on letterhead, the reason for your request and the specific information that you require. We will also require a consent signed by the patient or the Substitute Decision Maker before we release any documents. See contact information below.

The Health Information Management Department at Ontario Shores oversees the collection, use and disclosure of Personal health Information, as well as the storage and retention of our patient's personal health record.

They provide the following services:

  • Release of personal health information
  • Provision of copies of personal  health information to authorized individuals
  • Assistance to patients in obtaining access to their personal health record.

You or your Substitute Decision Maker can obtain a copy of your personal health record by completing the Request for Access to a Record of Personal Health Information Form. To help avoid delays in response time, please ensure that all information is complete on the form, and that you or your substitute decision maker have dated and signed the form.

When you have completed the form you can mail, fax or drop off in person to the Health Information Management Department. See contact information below.


Contact Information

Health Information Management
Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
700 Gordon Street, Whitby ON, L1N 5S9

Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. 
Doctor's office and patients please call 905-430-4055 ext. 6854
Insurance companies, police and lawyers please call 905-430-4055 ext. 6854
Confidential Fax Number: 905-430-4049

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