WHAT IS PERSONAL INFORMATION?
Personal information is information about a specific individual. This includes information that relates to personal characteristics (e.g. gender, age, income, home address, phone number, ethnic background, family status), their health (health history, conditions, services received by them) or other activities and views (politics, religion, opinions expressed by an individual, and opinion or evaluation of an individual).
WHO ARE WE?
Capital Region Psychological Services includes, at the time of writing, 4 registered psychologists, a Ph.D. graduate under supervision, 1 vocational counselor/evaluator, 1 office administrator and 2 off-site transcriptionists. We use a number of consultants and agencies that may, in the course of their duties, have limited access to personal information we hold. These include computer consultants, office security and maintenance staff, bookkeepers and accountants, temporary workers to cover holidays, credit card companies, website managers, lawyers, office cleaners, and the building landlord. We restrict their access to any personal information we hold as much as is reasonably possible. We also require that they conform to privacy legislation principles.
WHY IS PERSONAL INFORMATION COLLECTED?
Like all psychologists, we collect, use and disclose personal information in order to serve our clients. Failure to collect, review, or consider personal background information about clients would be negligent on the part of the practitioner. For our clients, the primary purpose for collecting personal information is to provide psychological assessment, treatment, and consultation services. For example, we collect information about a client’s health history, including family history, physical and psychological functioning and social situation in order to help us assess their mental health needs, to advise them of their options, and to provide the psychological services that they choose. We also collect information to obtain a baseline of current psychological, cognitive or vocational status, so that in providing ongoing services, we can identify changes that are occurring over time. Another primary purpose is to collect personal, health and social information in order to provide diagnostic information, current status, and recommendations to the client’s family physician and/or referral source.
Another purpose for collecting personal information is for conducting research on the effectiveness of our treatment. In this case, information such as gender, age, and education level would be referenced in an anonymous fashion without any other identifying information such as your name or address. The research study may be published in a scientific journal, however identifying information would not be included.
It would be rare for us to collect any information without the client’s expressed consent, but this may occur in an emergency situation, for example if the client is suicidal or if we believe the client would consent, if asked, and it is impractical to obtain consent (i.e. a family member passing a message on from our client and we have no reason to believe that the message is not genuine).
About members of the general public
For members of the general public, the primary purposes for collecting personal information are to provide notice of special events (e.g. seminars, conferences) or to make them aware of psychological services in general or our clinic in particular.
On our web site, we only collect the personal information that you provide and only use that information for the purposes you gave it to us (e.g. to respond to your email, to register for a course).
Contract staff and students
For those individuals who are contracted to do work for Capital Region Psychological Services (e.g. temporary workers), our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to ensure that we can contact them in the future (e.g. for new assignments) and for necessary work-related communications (e.g. sending out paycheques, year-end tax receipts). Examples of the types of personal information we collect for those purposes include home addresses and telephone numbers. It is rare for us to collect such information without prior consent, but it may occur in the case of health emergency (e.g. a SARS outbreak) or to investigate a possible breach of the law (if a theft were to occur in the clinic). If contract staff or students wish a letter of reference or an evaluation, we will collect information about their work-related performance and provide a report as authorized by them.
RELATED AND SECONDARY PURPOSES
Like most organizations, we also collect, use, and disclose information for purposes related to, or secondary to, our primary purposes. The most common examples of related and secondary purposes are as follows:
• to invoice clients for goods/services that were not paid for at the time
• to process credit card payments
• to advise clients of our need to obtain their approval for treatment or for information about their treatment plans
• to advise clients and others of special events and opportunities (e.g. seminar, development of new service, arrival of new clinicians)
Our clinic reviews client and other files for the purpose of ensuring the provision of high quality services, including assessing the performance of our staff. In addition, external consultants (auditors, lawyers, accreditation programs) may, on our behalf, do audits and continuing quality improvement reviews of our clinic. At times, this may involve interviewing staff. Only under rare circumstance would this involve review of any client files.
Psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario, who may inspect our records and interview staff as part of regulatory activities in the public interest. In addition, as professionals, we report serious misconduct, incompetence or incapacity of other practitioners whether they belong to other organizations or our own. Following legislative guidelines, our organization also believes that it should report information suggesting serious illegal behaviour to the authorities, where there is a high risk or potential for harm to others or self. External regulators have their own strict privacy regulations. Also, like all organizations, various government agencies (e.g. Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Information and Privacy Commissioner, the Human Rights Commission, etc.) have as part of their mandate the authority to review our files and interview our staff. In these circumstances, we may consult with professionals (e.g. lawyers, accountants) who will investigate the matter and report it back to us.
The cost of some goods/services provided by Capital Region Psychological Services to clients is paid for by third parties (e.g. WSIB, auto insurance, long-term disability insurance). These third party payers often have your consent or legislative authority to direct us to collect and disclose to them certain information to demonstrate client entitlement to this funding.
If Capital Region Psychological Services or its assets were to be sold, the purchaser would want to conduct a “due diligence” review of the clinic’s records to ensure it is a viable business that has been honestly portrayed to the purchaser. This due diligence may involve some review of our accounting and service files. The purchaser would NOT be able to remove our records or record any personal information. Before being provided access to the files, the purchaser must provide a written promise to keep all personal information confidential. Only reputable purchasers who can maintain the standards required by the College of Psychologists of Ontario, who have already agreed to buy the organization’s business or its assets would be provided access to personal information, and only for the purpose of completing the due diligence search prior to closing the purchase.
You can choose not to be part of some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g. by declining to receive notice of special events, by paying your services in advance). However, we do not have much choice about some of these related and secondary purposes (e.g. external regulations).
PROTECTING PERSONAL INFORMATION
We understand the importance of protecting personal information. For that reason, we have taken the following steps:
• Paper information is either under supervision or secured in locked or restricted areas
• Electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area at all times. In addition, security access systems are used on computers.
• All of our cellphones are digital, whose signals are more difficult to intercept
• Paper information is transmitted through sealed, addressed envelopes or boxes by reputable companies
• Electronic information is transmitted through either a direct line or is anonymized or encrypted
• External consultants and agencies with access to personal information must enter into privacy agreements with us.
• In the unlikely event that there is a breach of privacy with respect to your personal information, we will notify you immediately of this breach.
RELEASING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
Release of Information requests are filled only with your written authorization or in unusual circumstances, with your verbal consent witnessed by 2 people.
Information provided to us is private and confidential and is only released to third parties with your informed, written consent. This consent permits us to release information/ reports to, or consult with, the individuals you have indicated can examine your file. Under the new provincial legislation, PHIPA, your consent is implied when discussing your case with members of your health care team. You can withdraw your consent, in writing, at any time. Under the new privacy legislation (PHIPA), you can withdraw consent at any time, however, you cannot rescind consent for information that has already been collected.
There are certain circumstances where we would have to divulge personal information about you to a third party without your explicit consent. These include:
• if your clinician suspects that you may do harm to yourself or others;
• if child abuse is suspected or reported;
• if you advise the clinician of sexual abuse by another registered health care provider.
• when a Court issues a subpoena for your file or requires our testimony.
We do not release any type of raw data from psychological testing to any other party, other than to registered psychologists, even with your consent.
We will only release information that has been collected in our office, with your consent, to other individuals. Any other reports provided to us by allied health providers will not be released by Capital Region Psychological Services.
Should you wish to review your file at Capital Region Psychological Services, your clinician will review the file with you before we release information to you. We will not release reports/documentation that comes from outside our facility. We reserve the right to charge a fee for copying your file.
RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
We need to retain personal information for some time to ensure that we can answer any questions you might have about services provided, and for our own accountability to external regulatory bodies. However, we do not want to keep personal information too long in order to protect your privacy.
We keep our client files for approximately 10 years. Our client and contact directories are much more difficult to systematically destroy, so such information is removed, when possible, if it appears that we will not be contacting you again. However, if you ask, we will remove such contact information right away. We keep personal information relating to our general correspondence (e.g. with people who are not clients, newsletter, seminars, and marketing activities) for about six months.
We destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding. We destroy electronic information by deleting it and, when the hardware is discarded, we ensure that the hard drive is physically destroyed. Alternatively, we may send some or all of the client files to our client.
If your clinician were to pass away or become unable to practice for whatever reason, your file would remain at Capital Region Psychological Services and be the responsibility of an alternate designated clinician. You may wish to ask your clinician who they have appointed as responsible for your file in these cases.
LOOKING AT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
You have the right to see what personal information we hold about you. Often, all you have to do is ask. Access requests by clients can be refused for:
• raw data from psychological tests
• and where there is a risk of significant harm to either the client or others by releasing the information
We can help you identify what records we might have about you. We will also try to help you understand any information that you do not understand (e.g. short forms, technical language, etc.). You will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you, before providing you with access to your file. Capital Region Psychological Services reserves the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests.
If there is a problem, we may ask that you put your request in writing. If we cannot provide you with access, we will tell you within 30 days, if possible, and tell you the reason, as best we can, as to why we cannot give you access.
If you believe that there is a mistake in the information, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. If necessary, we will ask you to provide documentation that information in our files is wrong. Where we agree that a mistake was made, the correction will be made and if the disputed information has an impact on your care, or otherwise benefits you, we will provide the corrected information to all parties who received the original statement(s)/report(s).
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?
Our privacy information officer, Dr. Nadine Rossy, can be reached at 613-521-1111, or at email@example.com. If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, please do so in writing to Dr. Rossy. She will acknowledge receipt of your complaint, ensure that it is investigated promptly, and that you are provided with a formal decision and reasons in writing.
If you have a concern about the professionalism or competence of a clinician or the mental or physical capacity of any of our professional staff, we would ask you to discuss those concerns with us. However, if we cannot satisfy your concerns, you are entitled to make a complaint to our regulatory body, the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
The College of Psychologists of Ontario
110 Eglinton Avenue West
Toronto ON, M4R 1A3
For more general inquires, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of the privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as a type of ombudsperson for privacy disputes. The Commissioner can be reached at:
112 Kent Street
Ottawa ON, K1A 1H3