You have a right to request to see ("access") and to request correction to the information in your health record. There are a few limitations on the right.
You must make your request for access to your health record in writing. If you need help writing the letter, the organization must give you assistance.
In certain situations the organization can choose to refuse access, and sometimes the organization is required by law to refuse access.
These situations are a bit different depending on which law applies to the organization. See below for more information.
Also, while you have a right to request that a change be made to your health record, certain types of information, such as opinions and diagnoses, cannot be changed because the record must remain an accurate reflection of the opinions and diagnoses made at the date they were made. If later opinions are changed, that changed opinion would be in the record on a later date.
If you request a change which is not made, a notation must be made in the record next to the information you wanted changed showing that you made the request and stating what you wanted the information to be changed to.
The Personal Information Protection Act applies to health care providers in private practice, such as your doctor or physiotherapist. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act applies to government entities, including health authorities, their hospitals and clinics, government programs such as some counselling and support services and government ministries.
If you aren't sure which law applies to the organization holding the records you want to see, simply ask the privacy officer or your doctor. They are a required by law to help you.
Click here for a list of health authority privacy officers.
What Limits My Rights to See My Personal Health Information
Under the Personal Information Protection Act, which applies to businesses and non-profit organizations, an organization may choose to refuse to give you access to your personal information for the following reasons:
if the information is protected by solicitor-client privilege (for example, if it is part of a legal opinion or a court case);
if it was collected for an investigation;
if it would reveal confidential business information; or
if it was collected by a mediator or arbitrator in specified circumstances.
And it must refuse to give you access to your personal information if:
there is a health or safety risk in giving you the information (there is a very high standard to meet before this rule can be applied);
doing so would reveal another individual’s personal information; or
giving access would reveal the identity of someone who gave an opinion about you and the opinion-giver has not consented to his or her identity being disclosed (for example, this can cover situations involving an employee review or a personal reference).
Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act there are also a number of exceptions, including the same ones listed above, and a few others. For example, a government entity (called a "public body" in the FIPPA) must not give an individual access to his or her personal information if it disclosure would be harmful to law enforcement, or would be an unreasonable invasion of another person`s personal privacy, or if disclosure would be harmful to another individual or public safety.
What You Must Be Told If Your Request is Refused
If access to all or part of the information is refused by an organization under the Personal Information Protection Act, it must tell you the reasons for the refusal and the section of that law which applies, and the contact information of an employee of the organization who can answer questions about the refusal. It must also tell you that you have the right to ask the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC or a review within 30 days of being notified of the refusal.