Privacy of personal information is an important part of our health centre. We are committed to collecting, using and disclosing personal information responsibly and only to the extent necessary for the goods and services we provide. This document describes our privacy policies.
WHAT IS PERSONAL INFORMATION?
Personal information is information about an identifiable individual. Personal information includes information that relates to: an individual’s personal characteristics (eg: gender, age, home address or phone number, ethnic background, family status); health (eg: health history and conditions); or activities and views (eg: religion, opinions expressed by an individual, an opinion or evaluation of an individual). Personal information is different from business information (eg: an individual’s business address and telephone number). This is not protected by privacy legislation.
WHO WE ARE
Cornerstone Health Centre, at time of writing consists of Naturopathic Doctors, a Psychotherapist , a Registered Massage Therapist, a Manual Osteopathic Practitioner (DOMP), a food testing technician, a Chiropractor, and two support staff. We use a number of consultants and agencies that may, in the course of their duties, have limited access to personal information we hold. These include computer consultants, bookkeepers and accountants, temporary workers to cover holidays, credit card companies, website managers, cleaners and lawyers. We restrict their access to any personal information we hold as much as is reasonably possible. We also have their assurance that they follow the appropriate privacy principles.
COLLECTION OF PERSONAL INFORMATION:
About Clients Like all health care professionals, we collect, use and disclose personal information in order to serve our clients. For example, we collect information about a client’s health history, including their family history, physical condition and function and social situation in order to help us assess what their health needs are, to advise them of their options and then to provide the health care they choose to have. A second primary purpose is to obtain a baseline of health and social information so that in providing ongoing health services, we can identify changes that occur over time. It would be rare for us to collect such information without the client’s express consent, but this might occur in an emergency (eg: the client is unconscious) or where we believe the client would consent if asked and it is impractical to obtain consent (eg: a family member passing a message on from our client and we have no reason to believe that the message is not genuine). About Contract Staff, Volunteers and Students For people who are contracted to do work for us (eg: temporary workers), our primary purpose for collecting personal information is to ensure we can contact them in the future (eg: for new assignments) and for necessary work related communication (eg: sending our paycheques, year-end tax receipts). Examples of the type of personal information we collect for those purposes include home addresses and telephone numbers. It is rare for us to collect such information without prior consent, but it might happen in the case of a health emergency (eg: a SARS outbreak) or to investigate a possible breach of law. If contract staff, volunteers or students wish a letter of reference or an evaluation, we will collect information about their work related performance and provide a report as authorized by them.
WE COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION: RELATED AND SECONDARY PURPOSES
Like most organizations, we also collect, use and disclose information for purposes related to or secondary to our primary purposes. The most common examples of our related and secondary purposes are as follows:
- To invoice clients for goods or services, to process credit card payments or to collect unpaid accounts.
- To advise clients that their product or service should be reviewed (e.g., to ensure a product is still appropriate for their then current needs and to consider modifications or replacement).
- To advise clients and others of special events or opportunities that we have available.
- Naturopaths are regulated by the College of Naturopaths who may inspect our records and interview our staff as a part of their regulatory activities in the public interest. Osteopaths are governed by their College, as are Registered Massage Therapists, Psychotherapists and Chiropractors. In addition, as professionals, we will report serious misconduct, incompetence or incapacity of other practitioners, whether they belong to other organizations or our own. External regulators have their own strict privacy obligations. Sometimes these reports include personal information about our clients, or other individuals, to support the concern (e.g., improper services). Also, like all organizations, various government agencies (e.g., Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, Information & Privacy Commissioner, Human Rights Commission, etc.) have the authority to review our files and interview our staff as a part of their mandates. In these circumstances, we may consult with professionals (e.g., lawyers, accountants) who will investigate the matter and report back to us.
- The cost of some goods/services provided by Cornerstone Health Centre to clients is paid for by third parties (e.g., private insurance). These third-party payers often have your consent or legislative authority to direct us to collect and disclose to them certain information in order to demonstrate client entitlement to this funding.
- Clients or other individuals we deal with may have questions about our goods or services after they have been received. We also provide ongoing services for many of our clients over a period of months or years for which our previous records are helpful. We retain our client information for a minimum of ten years after the last contact to enable us to respond to those questions and provide these services (our regulatory Board also requires us to retain our client records).
- If Cornerstone Health Centre or its assets were to be sold, the purchaser would want to conduct a “due diligence” review of the Centre’s records to ensure that it is a viable business that has been honestly portrayed to the purchaser. This due diligence may involve some review of our accounting and service files. The purchaser would not be able to remove or record personal information. Before being provided access to the files, the purchaser must provide a written promise to keep all personal information confidential. Only reputable purchasers who have already agreed to buy the organization’s business or its assets would be provided access to personal information, and only for the purpose of completing their due diligence search prior to closing the purchase.
You can choose not to be part of some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g., by declining to receive notice of special events or opportunities, by paying for your services in advance). We do not, however, have much choice about some of these related or secondary purposes (e.g., external regulation).
PROTECTING PERSONAL INFORMATION
We understand the importance of protecting personal information. For that reason, we have taken the following steps:
- Paper information is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area.
- Electronic hardware is either under supervision or secured in a locked or restricted area at all times. In addition, passwords are used on computers. All of our cell phones are digital, as such signals are more difficult to intercept.
- Paper information is transmitted through sealed, addressed envelopes or boxes by reputable companies.
- Electronic information is transmitted either through a direct line or is anonymized or encrypted.
- External consultants and agencies with access to personal information must enter into privacy agreements with us.
RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION OF PERSONAL INFORMATION
We keep our client files for a minimum of ten years. Our client and contact directories are much more difficult to systematically destroy, so we remove such information when we can if it does not appear that we will be contacting you again. However, if you ask, we will remove such contact information right away. We keep any personal information relating to our general correspondence (e.g., with people who are not clients) newsletters, seminars and marketing activities for about six months after the newsletter ceases publication or a seminar or marketing activity is over. We destroy paper files containing personal information by shredding. We destroy electronic information by deleting it and, when the hardware is discarded, we ensure that the hard drive is physically destroyed. Alternatively, we may send some or the entire client file to our client.
YOU CAN LOOK AT YOUR INFORMATION
With only a few exceptions, you have the right to see what personal information we hold about you. We can help you identify what records we might have about you. We will also try to help you understand any information you do not understand (e.g., short forms, technical language, etc.). We will need to confirm your identity, if we do not know you, before providing you with this access. We reserve the right to charge a nominal fee for such requests. If there is a problem we may ask you to put your request in writing. If we cannot give you access, we will tell you within 30 days if at all possible and tell you the reason, as best we can, as to why we cannot give you access. If you believe there is a mistake in the information, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected. This applies to factual information and not to any professional opinions we may have formed. We may ask you to provide documentation that our files are wrong. Where we agree that we made a mistake, we will make the correction and notify anyone to whom we sent this information. If we do not agree that we have made a mistake, we will still agree to include in our file a brief statement from you on the point and we will forward that statement to anyone else who received the earlier information.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION?
Our Information Officer, Nicole Meier, can be reached at: 6 Guelph Street, Georgetown, ON L7G 3Y9, (905) 702-1944. She will attempt to answer any questions or concerns you might have. If you wish to make a formal complaint about our privacy practices, you may make it in writing to our Information Officer. She will acknowledge receipt of your complaint; ensure that it is investigated promptly and that you are provided with a formal decision and reasons in writing. If you have a concern about the professionalism or competence of our services or the mental or physical capacity of any of our professional staff we would ask you to discuss those concerns with us. However, if we cannot satisfy your concerns, you are entitled to complain to our regulatory body(s) or in the case of unregulated health professionals, their professional association: NATUROPATH College of Naturopaths of Ontario 150 John St. 10th Floor, Toronto, ON M5V 3E3 Phone 416 583 6010 Fax 416 583 6011 Email: [email protected] PSYCHOTHERAPIST College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario 163 Queen St. East, 4th Floor Toronto ,ON M5A 1S1 (416) 862-4801 [email protected] OSTEOPATH Canadian College of Osteopathy 150 Bridgeland Ste. 102 Toronto, ON M6A 1Z5 (416) 597-0367 RMT College of Massage Therapists of Ontario 1867 Yonge St. #810 Toronto, ON. M4S 1Y5 p (416) 489-2626 f (416) 489-2625 [email protected] CHIROPRACTOR College of Chiropractors of Ontario 130 Bloor St. W. Ste. 902 Toronto, ON M5S 1N5 p (416) 922-6355 f (416) 925-9610 [email protected] This policy is made under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. That is a complex Act and provides some additional exceptions to the privacy principles that are too detailed to set out here. There are some rare exceptions to the commitments set out above. For more general inquiries, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada oversees the administration of the privacy legislation in the private sector. The Commissioner also acts as a kind of ombudsman for privacy disputes. The Privacy Commissioner can be reached at: 112 Kent Street | Ottawa, Ontario | K1A 1H3 Phone (613) 995-8210 | Toll-free 1-800-282-1376 | Fax (613) 947-6850 | TTY (613) 992-9190 www.privcom.gc.ca