Privacy and security of personal health information is a right enjoyed by all citizens in Newfoundland and Labrador and lays at the heart of our society. Protecting privacy and ensuring the security of this sensitive information is no easy task in this modern era of advances in technology. With most people owning a smartphone or social media account where information can be easily shared, along with increased technological threats to privacy such as internet viruses or ransomware – the necessity of privacy protection and information security has become more important today than ever before.
I am Russell Bungay and, since 2016, I have been the regional director of Eastern Health’s Information Security and Privacy Office. Our team of dedicated individuals takes pride in providing the best possible service to ensure that your health information is protected under the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA).
It’s our duty to make sure your health information is protected through numerous privacy policies, security measures, as well as with the commitment of employees. In fact, I look at my team as kind of superheroes or protectors – at the ready to keep your information safe and privacy intact throughout your encounters with Eastern Health.
Did you know that staff sign oaths of confidentiality upon their employment with Eastern Health? These oaths, along with educating staff about the importance of privacy; managing breaches of information; responding to requests for information; performing security audits, and more are all part of what we do to keep your personal information safe each and every day.
In 2017, this team of protectors accomplished many initiatives and expanded privacy knowledge throughout the organization for the benefit of those we serve. Some of those activities include:
- Delivering privacy education sessions for employees
- Arranging for employees to sign an oath of confidentiality
- Implementing Privacy Awareness Week at Eastern Health
- Highlighting health information and privacy during Right to Know Week
- Conducting privacy assessments
Privacy rules and legislation can seem daunting and may create fear or unease within a health-care setting. The Information Security and Privacy Office has worked to ensure that all health-care workers feel empowered by the rules and supported by us in the protection and security of client health information.
At Eastern Health, we respect our clients, patients and residents’ right to confidential care. The personal health information that you entrust us with enables your health-care team to provide you with the care you need. In fact, your health information is only available to those who ‘need to know’ – health-care professionals like physicians, nurses, therapists and technicians, for example.
Privacy and confidentiality in health care promotes respect and the value of individuality in each and every touch point throughout a client, patient or resident’s experience at Eastern Health.
As Debbie Walsh, the Director of the Regional Medicine Program, stated: “Our role as care providers is to continue to educate ourselves, our clients and their families about their rights and responsibilities of privacy. As health-care providers within Eastern Health, we have to work together to embed and support a culture of privacy, partner with our clients and their families for the provision of safe, quality care, recognizing that we are all in this together.”
As director of the program, I see that the Information Security and Privacy Office has proactively increased its accessibility and awareness within Eastern Health over the past year. Clinicians, staff and patients regularly connect with our office to discuss the importance of privacy in a caring environment.
By making ourselves available to answer questions and to provide insight into different situations, our office of privacy protectors has been able to provide health-care professionals with an effective service facilitating the best outcomes for our patients, clients and residents.
I am proud to say that the Information Security and Privacy team works each day to ensure that the health information of our patients and clients is protected. And, health-care professionals can feel confident they have the information they need to provide the care required.
Privacy and security creates a safe and secure health-care environment. It’s tied to our strategic priority of quality and safety. And, we owe it to our patients, clients, and residents to maintain the safeguards and confidential environments that facilitate the best care possible.
This story was written by Russell Bungay, Regional Director of Information Security & Privacy Office at Eastern Health.