Considerations for Health Professionals when Responding to Requests for Records

Watch Lonny Rosen as he provides advice to health professionals on responding to requests for health records.



Toronto health lawyer, Lonny Rosen, has advice for professionals responding to requests for health records. Well Lonny, let’s start at the top. If there is a request for records what do they do first?

Well, the first thing a health practitioner should do is look at who’s making the request for records and to whom the records relate. If the records are requested by a person and the records relate to the same person, that’s usually relatively straight forward. There are only some limited circumstances when the records wouldn’t be provided and typically the records would be provided and the practitioner can recover their reasonable costs in providing access or copies of the records.

What if a person is requesting records on behalf of someone else?

Then again, the practitioner must first look at to whom the records relate and who is making the request. And then ensure that the person making the request has authority to make that request. If the records, for example, relate to a young person that person might be the child of the person accessing the records or seeking the records. If that young person is capable of giving or refusing consent to the release of their records then he or she should be given the opportunity to do so. Even though if a person is under sixteen, his or her parent[s] can access the records, but if the person is capable, that young person can still give or refuse consent. In the event of a conflicting decision [between the young person and his or her parent or guardian] the young person’s decision governs. Likewise, with an elderly person, if a person seeks access to an elderly relative’s records, even for the purposes of supporting that relative, if that [person] is capable of giving or refusing consent to the release of their records, then he or she must give or refuse that consent.

Are there any circumstances where when records would be denied?

Yes, there are a few circumstances where someone can seek access to their records and that request might be denied. The records might relate to a proceeding that is ongoing, or to an investigation, or be subject to a legal privilege, or the records could contain information such that providing access to that information could cause significant harm to the person’s treatment or recovery, or significant bodily harm to someone else. In those circumstances, the health care practitioner must sever the portions of the record that carry that risk and provide the other portions of the record to that person. Also, the provider must provide an explanation to the person explaining that not all of the records are being provided because of the provisions of the health privacy legislation [Personal Health Information Protection Act] which permits them to withhold certain records or portions of records.

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