Privacy and confidentiality are important in all health care settings, and especially so when psychological services are offered. This is even more critical for my practice because much of my work involves sexual and gender concerns, parts of their lives that most people prefer to keep very private. Below, I lay out my obligations and practices regarding privacy and confidentiality.
As a psychologist in the Yukon I am considered a health care provider. Consequently, the Yukon’s Health Information Privacy and Management Act (HIPMA) applies to me. This means there are rules that I must follow and rights that you have.
It is important for you to know that I do keep a file for each client. The file contains name, age and date of birth, address, telephone and/or email contact information, emergency contact person, and documentation regarding my contacts with you (e.g., date, length of time, your presenting concerns and history, what we discussed, my recommendations, and so on). The file might also contain materials that you have provided to me (e.g., letter from a physician). I do not seek information about you from sources other than you unless I have your permission; for instance, I would not call your doctor to ask about medication you are taking without your permission. The file helps me to remember and reflect on the work we are doing together, and helps me to provide a good quality service to you.
Files are kept for ten years after the last date of service, or in the case of a young person, ten years since the person’s nineteenth birthday. After that files are shredded.
You have the right to look at your file, and to have a copy of your file for a reasonable fee (i.e., what it costs me to provide you with it). You also have the right to ask for corrections of factual information to be made to your file and/or to add a note indicating your disagreement with material in your file.
I take a number of measures to protect your privacy and confidentiality: All confidential material is kept either in a locked cabinet in a secure setting or electronically with password protection or encrypted; if it is necessary to transport a file or other confidential information to another location, it is done so securely; I use encrypted email in communication with clients, however this will not protect our email communication unless you also use encrypted email; I do not publicize the location of my office, and I schedule sessions so as to minimize the chance of clients running into each other; and should we come across each other in public, I follow your lead as to whether to greet each other.
Your file and that you are being seen by me is confidential. Except under very specific circumstances, I am not free to disclose any information.
The circumstances in which I am permitted or obliged to disclose information about you are as follows.
- You may give me verbal or written permission to release information about you or your child to another person or organization. You may also withdraw your consent to release information at any time.
- There may be times I need to consult with a colleague in order to provide you with the best care I can. Generally, these consultations would take place without me giving any information about you that is likely to identify you; however this is a small community, so please let me know if you have any concerns about this. That way we can agree on an approach that is mutually acceptable.
- I have ethical and legal responsibilities to protect people from serious harm. This means that when there is a risk of suicide, physical violence, or harm to a child or vulnerable adult, I may have to break confidentiality, even if you do not agree. These situations are unusual. When they occur, I inform you and I share only the information necessary to make sure people are safe.
- It is possible that I, or your file, could be subpoenaed by the courts. I would have to comply with a court order.
If you are dissatisfied with my protection of your privacy or confidentiality, please speak to me or contact either the Office of the Privacy Commission in the Yukon (867-667-8468 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or the College of Psychologists of Ontario (800-489-8388 or email@example.com).