How and when can I get a copy of my health record?
Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), a request must be made in writing. You can either fill out a Request Form for the Release of Patient Records or make your request in a letter, and then submit it to a Freedom of Information (FOI) Officer at the Health Records department of the site where you received care.
FIPPA allows for up to 30 business days (days not including weekends and statutory holidays) from receipt of your access request to provide you with your record. Many requests can be processed quicker than that, depending on the size and nature of your request.
Who has the right to request access to records held by Island Health under FIPPA?
Individuals may request access to any records held by Island Health, however, the release of those records will occur in accordance with the requirements under FIPPA.
Patients, residents, clients, or employees can request access to their own health records by submitting a written request to the department at the site believed to hold that record. The public may also submit a written request for records containing information held by Island Health to the designated FOI Officer within Island Health.
Employees of Island Health have the right to review their personnel file without submitting a formal access request.
What is an access request?
It is a written request by an individual “applying” to obtain copies of records containing recorded information (either personal or business) held by Island Health. The request must be clear, specify the records being sought and, if the applicant is acting on behalf of another individual, provide written proof of the authority to make the request.
What kind of information is frequently requested through the access request process?
A variety of Island Health records are requested through the Information Stewardship, Access and Privacy (ISAP) Office. The following list will give you an idea of the scope of requests we manage:
Outside of the ISAP office, the most frequently requested record is an individual’s personal health record.
What's the difference between a request for information and a request for records?
Requests for records are subject to the rules and processes outlined in FIPPA, including but not limited to, being submitted in writing, responded to within 30 business days and subject to the exceptions to disclosure outlined in FIPPA.
On the other hand, requests for information typically come from an individual seeking verbal or written answers to questions, rather than specific records held by Island Health. As such, any responses to questions are not addressed under FIPPA, rather the release of information in this situation is guided by FIPPA and confidentiality policies of Island Health.
How long will it take to get the information that is requested?
Under FIPPA, Island Health has up to 30 business days (days not including weekends and statutory holidays) from receipt of the written request to respond. If Island Health needs to consult with a third party, or there are large volumes of records to review, a time extension may be taken as allowed under FIPPA. In that circumstance, you will be notified in writing of the new due date and the reason for the extension.
Can I read my health record while I am in hospital?
Health care providers are expected to fully discuss your care and treatment with you throughout your hospitalization. However, the health record itself is not typically shared with you during your stay.
The personal information you provide to us is your information, but the record it is stored on is the property of the health authority. FIPPA requires that access to records held by the health authority follow a specified procedure, as outlined under that legislation, to enable designated FOI officers to review each record and ensure that anyone else’s information that may exist within your health record is adequately protected prior to disclosure.
For example, when you were admitted, a family member may have provided your health care providers with their confidential personal information or medical history in order to assist in better understanding your care needs. Their information would typically be protected from disclosure to you, especially if that family member had provided it in confidence.
Not providing immediate access to the record thus protects other individual’s privacy rights as well as ensures the health authority follows the rules stipulated by FIPPA.
Can anyone have access to my health information?
Not just anyone can see your health information. As stated in Island Health’s notification sign, we collect your personal information in order to provide care and services to you. To ensure you receive safe and comprehensive care, relevant need-to-know information is shared with your referring physician, other care providers, or health care agencies and facilities who demonstrate they are directly involved in your ongoing care.
Personal information about you may also be provided to other individuals when the purpose for sharing is consistent with the provisions of FIPPA.
Under certain circumstances, other individuals who may be acting on your behalf or have demonstrated their legal authority to have access to specific information in your record may be provided with some or all of your records. These individuals may include, but are not limited to, Personal Representatives, Committees of Person, Executors, or a lawyer acting on your behalf. Each request would be considered individually and involve the submission of proof of the proper authority to receive access to your personal information.
Will I have to pay for a copy of my health record or my personnel file?
Under FIPPA, you are entitled to receive a copy of your personal health record for free. Fees may apply for other records or any special processing services that are requested.
How can I request a correction of information in my health record?
Section 29 of FIPPA states that if you believe there is an error or omission in your personal information you may write to the designated FOI Officer where you received your care or service and request that the public body correct the information.
Your contact information will be corrected; however, if you are requesting the correction of a health care provider's opinion or other health record information, under the stipulations of FIPPA, Island Health will add your letter to your health record as an annotation.
What is routinely releasable information?
These are categories of records that Island Health holds which are available to the public, upon request, without submitting a formal request for access to records. These records never contain information that may be considered personal or confidential and/or requiring severing or review under the Act.
Examples of routinely releasable records would be:
What if I have questions or am not satisfied with the way that my request for access to records has been handled?
For questions or concerns, please contact the FOI Officer where you received care.
If you remain dissatisfied with the response you received from Island Health, you may contact the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for BC.