The IPC is excited to announce the launch of a biweekly blog about what is trending on our public inquiries line. We hope this blog series will raise awareness and answer some of your questions about rights and obligations under Ontario’s access and privacy laws.
Your doctor is retiring? What you should know about your medical records.
Ontario doctors are subject to Ontario’s health privacy law, the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). This act establishes a set of rules on the collection, use and disclosure of your personal health information.
Health information custodians, such as family doctors and other health care providers, are required to protect your personal health information and ensure that this sensitive information is kept secure. This same law gives you the right to access your health records, unless very specific and limited exceptions apply.
When they decide to retire, doctors might transfer their patients’ health records to a successor, meaning to another doctor who is taking over their practice. Under the law, doctors must notify their patients of the transfer at the first reasonable opportunity, either before they retire or soon after.
Doctors might also decide to send the records to a specialized medical record storage facility that will maintain the records on their behalf.
Whether another doctor is taking over or the records are sent to a storage facility, you still have the right to access them.
Sometimes, patients are not advised ahead of time that their files will be transferred. It is important that you make a request, in writing, to access your personal health information to your doctor’s last known address, or follow other instructions or advice from a regulatory body such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
If you have made a formal (written) request and have not received a response within 30 calendar days, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC).
For more specific information on the topic presented in this blog, please see our Guidelines on the Treatment of Records of Personal Health Information in the Event of a Change in Practice; and for general information on PHIPA, review our
Frequently Asked Questions: Personal Health Information Protection Act. Please contact us if you have any questions.