As a caregiver or someone who keeps personal health information, you’re responsible for ensuring its safety and security. In Canada, the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) is a legislation that outlines the principles and requirements on how to safeguard personal health information. PHIPA applies to all health information custodians, including small business owners, CEOs, managers, and employees of health-related businesses, organizations, agencies, and institutions.
As a business leader in the healthcare sector, you know the importance of keeping your customers’ data safe and secure. Nevertheless, with the ever-increasing volume of personal health information (PHI) being collected, processed, stored, and shared in the healthcare industry, it has become crucial to ensure compliance with the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). In Ontario, Canada, this legislation provides comprehensive rules on the collection, use, and disclosure of PHI by healthcare providers and other organizations. Here, we will outline the 10 principles of PHIPA and explain how each one is crucial for your small business operations.
The first principle of PHIPA requires organizations to take full responsibility for how they collect, use, disclose and safeguard PHI. It involves having a dedicated Privacy Officer who ensures that your organizational policies and procedures meet regulatory requirements. As a business, you must appoint someone to take accountability for the protection of PHI.
2. Identifying Purposes
This principle obliges you to make clear the reasons for collecting, using, and disclosing PHI in a way that a reasonable person would understand. You must be transparent with your customers about how you handle their PHI and only collect, use, and disclose it for the purposes you have identified. Your notice of collection and privacy policies must identify the specific purposes under which you process your customers’ PHI.
PHIPA requires that you obtain informed consent before collecting, using, or disclosing a customer’s PHI, except in specific circumstances. The consent must be obtained in writing, or by electronic or other available means. This requirement also includes obtaining consent before sharing PHI with third parties. You should ensure that you have clear and informed consent before collecting or sharing PHI.
4. Limiting Collection
This principle restricts the collection of PHI to only what is reasonable and necessary for the purposes identified by the business. You should not collect PHI that is not required for your intended purposes. You should only collect PHI that is relevant and necessary to your business practices.
5. Limiting Use, Disclosure and Retention
PHIPA requires that you restrict the use, disclosure, and retention of PHI to only what is necessary for the identified purposes. This principle dictates that you must destroy, erase, or de-identify PHI once it is no longer required to fulfill the identified purposes. It’s essential to have a retention policy in place to ensure that you only hold onto PHI for the required duration.
This principle requires that your organization ensures that the PHI in your possession is accurate, complete, and up to date for all purposes. You should have a system in place to ensure that the PHI you are holding is accurate, complete, and up to date.
This principle obliges you to put technical, administrative, and physical safeguards in place to protect PHI against theft, loss, unauthorized access, disclosure, copying, use, or modification. You should ensure that your IT systems are secure, and access to PHI is limited to authorized personnel.
9. Individual Access
This principle grants individuals the right to access their own PHI, subject to specific exemptions. You must provide customers access to their PHI, except in specific circumstances, such as when PHI contains information about third parties.
10. Challenging Compliance
This principle provides customers with the right to challenge any organization’s compliance with PHIPA. You must have a process in place to handle customer complaints about PHI protection.
As a business leader, compliance with PHIPA is non-negotiable. Understanding the 10 principles of PHIPA will ensure that your business is compliant with the regulations. You also need to make sure that your employees also understand the requirements and abide by them. By following these principles and having the required policies and procedures in place, your organization can protect your customers’ PHI while mitigating any penalties that may arise due to violating the regulation. Remember, PHI protection is everyone’s responsibility.