Privacy

Statement of Information Practices

On April 12, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it was taking steps that leverages safe and secure data sets to better detect, plan, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario. A time-limited, two-year regulation under Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (329/04) was established on July 30, 2020 for two main purposes:

  • researching, analyzing, investigating, preventing, responding to, or alleviating COVID-19 or its effects; or
  • evaluating or monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the management of, the allocation of resources to or planning for all or part of the health system.

This regulation permitted the collection of PHI data sets for authorized research and data analytics to better support health system planning and responsiveness, including the immediate need to analyze the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry is a health information custodian (HIC) under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (PHIPA) for the purposes of the Ontario Health Data Platform (OHDP).  The Ministry only collects, uses, and discloses PHI data sets that are necessary for the purposes of research to better detect, plan, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry has implemented the required information practices in compliance with PHIPA for the protection of PHI against theft, loss, unauthorized access, copying, modification, use, disclosure, and disposal. 

Collection of Personal Health Information

The Ontario Health Data Platform (OHDP) is a safe, secure, high performance data platform for COVID-19 research. The data sets collected include extracted information from:

  • clinical information systems and registries, genomics, and public health, hospital, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging information systems;
  • hospital discharge summaries and emergency department visits;
  • physician claims submitted to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan;
  • medical drug claims submitted to the Ontario Drug Benefit Program; and
  • claims submitted for home care and long-term care.

Learn more about PHI data sets collected on Data Sets.

Use of Personal Health Information

The Ministry uses the OHDP linked data sets to support research for:

  • increased detection of COVID-19;
  • discovery of risk factors for vulnerable populations;
  • prediction of when and where outbreaks may happen;
  • evaluation of how preventative and treatment measures are working;
  • identification of where to allocate equipment and other resources; and
  • improved decision-making for health care and aiding in efforts to beat COVID-19.

Learn more about Health Research Priorities.

Limiting Disclosure of Personal Health Information

The Ministry limits disclosure to researchers who are affiliated with an Ontario University, College or Research Institution who have submitted an application in writing that includes the approval of a Research Ethics Board (REB) approved research plan. The Ministry only discloses the data sets that are necessary or relevant for the research purpose and method.

The approved researchers are required to comply with OHDP privacy policies and enter into a research agreement that sets out the terms and conditions for their access and use of data.

Privacy and Security Safeguards

OHDP data sets are protected by physical, technical and administrative safeguards that adhere to industry best practices.

Safeguards include:

  • privacy policies and procedures implemented to ensure compliance
  • functionality for logging access and disclosure of PHI
  • privacy-protective measures to reduce the risk of re-identification of an individual through data masking
  • access to data limited to view-only
  • cybersecurity mechanisms including implementation of integrated, multi-layer security technologies and processes and a security incident management tool

Access and Correction

All Access and Correction requests related to personal information or personal health information can be made in writing to the Ministry’s Access and Privacy Office:

Manager, Access and Privacy Office
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
1st floor, 99 Adesso Drive
Concord, ON L4K3C7
Telephone: 416-327-7040
Website: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/information/state_of_info.aspx 

Questions or Concerns

Any questions or concerns about OHDP privacy policies or compliance with PHIPA may be directed to the OHDP Privacy Lead by email: privacy@ohdp.ca

Individuals may also make a complaint regarding OHDP’s compliance with PHIPA to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC):

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400
Toronto, ON M4W 1A8
Email: info@ipc.ca
Website: www.ipc.on.ca

Documents

Date modified: 2021-02-23