That’s because we’re the Release of Information (ROI) staff within the Health Information Services Department: we hear from all kinds of people – all over the world – all of the time!
To put that in perspective: Eastern Health processed over 28,000 requests for personal health information in the past fiscal year (April 1, 2013-March 31, 2014).
The requests can range from a patient or client requesting a date of a health care visit or appointment – to third parties, such as insurance companies, lawyers and workplace compensation commissions, requesting a complete medical chart in order to pursue a claim on behalf of a client.
These requests should not be confused with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA) which does not apply to requests for personal health information.
Requests for release of information have come to us from all the continents of the world – with the exception of Antarctica! And they come to us from a variety of other sources, including:
- police agencies such as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,
- the research community, and
- private individuals.
Sandra Milmore is one of our ROI professionals. Sandra has worked in the Release of Information area since February 1995 and has spent most of those years working at the Waterford Hospital. She’s experienced many changes within the department during her time here.
“The introduction of the Personal Health Information Act was a huge change for me and my colleagues,” says Sandra. “The legislation really emphasized to us the importance of the privacy of all patients.”
“We rely on that legislation to tell us how, when, what and to whom personal health information is released.”
That is because Eastern Health is considered a custodian of personal health information. The patient, resident, client health record is the property of Eastern Health – but the information contained in the record is the property of the patient, resident and client. It is our role to maintain and protect both the health record and the information within the record.
However, that privacy must also be weighed against openness and accountability to those we serve. So while releasing information might sound simple and straight forward – ROI requests often leads to many questions that require consideration before the request can be fulfilled.
For example, one of the questions may be who has the authority to receive the information? The next of kin recorded on the patient’s chart is not necessarily the legal next of kin, especially in the case of a deceased patient/resident/client when there may be a dispute between family members as to who should receive information. The Release of Information employees are directed to legislation to determine the outcome.
Three years ago, the Release of Information Staff from all of the St. John’s sites moved to Mount Pearl Square, a consolidation which has proved helpful to all employees:
“We face the challenges of our work together,” added Sandra, who, when not responding to requests for information, spends time at home in Mount Pearl with her husband and two dogs, Buddy and Dipstick. “I love to help people and I feel we have a great team here at Mount Pearl Square. The work that we do is very important, and I am very proud to be a part of it.” ■
This story was written by Roxanne Clarke, a regional manager with the Release of Information/Privacy/Confidentiality and Human Resources, based in St. John’s.