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Adhering to Legal Requirements in the Health Services Office

May 21, 2014

Although it may be challenging for healthcare providers and health services offices to fully comply with the law at all times, it’s important for them to regularly readjust and refresh their operations in order to better serve patients. For example, some healthcare providers are unclear as to their legal obligations to provide language services. In the context of Canada’s growing multicultural population, it’s important that all healthcare services make appropriate preparations to accommodate diversity.

The right to privacy

For the health services office, one of the most important legal requirements regards personal information and privacy. This applies to all occupations in the health services office, including professionals who have taken accounting courses or professionals with payroll training. Information needs to be collected by professionals with medical office assistant training, used and disclosed in a manner that’s consistent with provincial legislation. Personal health information means information about an individual in oral or recorded form that relates to topics like:

  • The physical or mental health of the patient, including information about the history of the patient’s family’s health
  • Healthcare services provided to the patient
  • Patient’s healthcare card number
  • Any other information about a patient that is included in a record containing personal health information that is maintained for the purpose of providing healthcare or health services

Moreover, employees of a health services office must inform a patient of what they do with their personal health information. In certain situations, they must ask the patient’s permission before they can collect, use or disclose the information. Privacy legislation also gives the patient the right, with some exceptions, to see their personal health information and to ask for it to be changed or corrected, if they feel it’s inaccurate or incomplete.

Except as when required by law, the personal health information collected by the health services office can’t be offered to outside services like:

  • The patient’s insurance company or employer
  • A healthcare professional who isn’t providing the patient with healthcare
  • Academic advisors, professors, university administration, family or friends

Protecting health information

To ensure privacy, certain steps have to be taken to ensure that a patient’s health records are secure and protected against theft, loss, unauthorized use and more. Some rules of thumb include:

  • Paper records containing personal health information are either should be secured in a locked or restricted area
  • Electronic records that contain personal health information should be stored on a password-protected network and are accessed by hardware that is also password-protected and locked in a restricted area when not used

Lastly, in the event of any unauthorized use or disclosure of personal health information, the professionals who work in the health services office have to inform the patient at the first reasonable opportunity. A note will also be made in the individual’s record of personal health information.

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