Privacy and Confidentiality Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What information does the hospital collect?

Answer. To provide you with quality health care, we collect both personal and health information from you.  Your legal name, date of birth, address, Health Card Number and extended health insurance numbers are examples of personal information.  Your health history, the records of your visits to the hospital and what health care we provide to you during those visits are examples of your health information.

Question: Why does the hospital need this information?

Answer. The information we collect from you is used:

  • To provide you with quality health care and follow-up care in the community. 
    • To carry out quality assurance to help make us better. 
    • To ask you how we are doing.  You may be asked to participate in surveys by either the hospital or by specific programs or services in the hospital that participated in your care.
    • For research, to develop new treatments and technology.
    • As mandated, for the purposes of billing and statistics.

Question: How does the hospital protect my information?

Answer. A few of the ways that WGH strives to protect both your personal information and your personal health information are by:

  • Teaching all staff about confidentiality.  All staff, physicians, volunteers, etc. must sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of their relationship with the hospital.
  • Requiring that all staff wear photo identification at all times while on hospital property to protect against unauthorized individuals accessing information.
    • Applying additional security measures to all electronic health records, such as passwords.

Question: Does the hospital share my information with anyone?

Answer. WGH shares some or all of your information with:

  • Health care providers at other hospitals, nursing homes or other health care agencies who become part of your health care team.  Information is shared for the purpose of your continuing care in the community.
  • Agencies, for example OHIP, extended health insurance companies, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and Ministry of Health.
  • Other agencies as required by law, for example, public health surveillance.

Question: Do I have to participate in research, teaching and surveys?

Answer. WGH may provide health information for the purpose of research. Researchers may access this information only after the hospitals remove identifying personal information, for example, names, and addresses. Other forms of research, such as clinical trials or clinical investigation that may have a direct impact on your care, requires your specific permission. A member of your health care team may ask your permission for a researcher, who is affiliated with the hospital, to approach you about a clinical research trial. If you agree, the researcher would provide you with information about the research and ask if you would like to participate. Many research projects give participants access to new treatments and technologies. You are under no obligation to participate in this type of research, and you can refuse when asked. The care you receive will not be impacted in any way if you decline.

The hospital provides clinical experience for student physicians, nurses and a variety of other health care professionals. The students are constantly under the direction of a licensed practitioner. If you have concerns about the participation of students in your care, please speak to your physician or Leader in the area where you are receiving your care.

Surveys help the hospital by allowing us to get your opinion on the care and services you receive as a patient. Participation in the surveys is not mandatory and you can decline participation and/or request to be removed from the hospital’s survey list. 

Question: Will the hospital disclose my health information to outside companies or to my employer?

Answer. The hospital requires your written permission or a court order to disclose health information to any organization or person not directly involved with the provision of patient care.

Question: Where is my health information stored and for how long?

Answer. Hospitals are required to keep health records for at least 10 years past the date of the last admission. In some cases, for example health records for children and records maintained for the purpose of research, health records are kept much longer. Most health records are maintained in Health Record Services, but some services, including Diagnostic Imaging and Laboratory, maintain their own specific records.

Question: How do I access or request a copy of my health information?

Answer. Ask your health care provider for information about your diagnosis and treatment while you're a patient at WGH.

To obtain a copy of, or view your WGH health record, please contact Health Record Services. You have the right to access your personal health record and WGH has an obligation to make it available to you with limited exceptions.

Question: What if some of the information in my health record is incorrect?

Answer. If you feel that any information in your health record is incorrect, or needs to be amended, contact the Privacy Officer at the number listed below.

Question: Can my family see my health information?

Answer. Although you have the right to access your health record, this right does not automatically extend to family members and/or friends. If you consent to let a friend or family member see your record, then the friend/family members may access the part(s) that you have consented to let them see.

Question: What if I am unable to give consent to release my health information?

Answer. If you are unable to give consent to access your health information due to reasons such as competency or unconsciousness, the consent decision falls to the appointed substitute decision maker, such as Power of Attorney, spouse, parent or guardian.

Question: Will my family and friends be able to call to get information about me over the phone?

Answer. When someone calls the hospital, staff has no way to verify who is calling and what their relationship is to you. Normally, in order to protect patient privacy, only a minimum amount of information is given out over the phone.

Question: Can all hospital staff access my health information?

Answer. The only persons whom the hospital authorizes to access a patient record are the staff and physicians involved in a patient's care, or staff who need information from a patient record to conduct the business of the hospital, e.g., the Finance Department staff that sends a bill to a patient's extended health insurance company.

All staff and hospital affiliates are bound by hospital policies and practices related to Privacy and Confidentiality. These policies aim to ensure that staff only access information on a need-to-know basis. Regulated Health Professionals are also bound by privacy and confidentiality requirements from their professional Colleges.

Question: Can I find out who has viewed my hospital record?

Answer. Yes, if you have concerns about unauthorized personnel accessing your information, you can make a request to the Privacy Office to audit your electronic hospital record. An audit is a process that tracks every staff or physician who has accessed your electronic record by date and time. We will ensure that your concerns are investigated promptly and a response is provided to you in a timely manner. If you would like to request an audit please contact the Privacy Officer at the number listed below. You will be asked to verify your identity by providing a government issued ID that has your signature.

Question: Can my family physician access my health information?

Answer. WGH releases information to family physicians to facilitate your continuing care

Question: What if I have concerns about who has accessed my health information or other Privacy concerns?

Answer. Please contact the Privacy Officer if you have concerns about unauthorized access to your health information or about any other concerns you have about Privacy issues.  We will ensure that your concerns are investigated promptly and a response is provided to you in a timely manner.


Privacy Officer Contact Information 

Brochures are available at all Patient Registration locations

Phone:  519-421-4233 Ext. 2303