On June 1, 2013, Nova Scotia’s Personal Health Information Act, SNS 2010, c 41 along with the Personal Health Information Regulations, NS Reg 217/2012 came into force. As with similar legislation in other provinces, the Nova Scotia legislation governs the collection, use and disclosure, as well as retention and disposal and destruction of personal health information. The legislation applies to “custodians” of personal health information who are defined as:

an individual or organization described below who has custody or control of personal health information as a result of or in connection with performing the person’s or organization’s powers or duties:

  1. a regulated health professional or a person who operates a group practice of regulated health professionals,
  2. the Minister,
  3. the Minister of Health Promotion and Protection,
  4. a district health authority under the Health Authorities Act,
  5. the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre,
  6. the Review Board under the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act,
  7. a pharmacy licensed under the Pharmacy Act,
  8. a continuing-care facility licensed by the Minister under the Homes for Special Care Act or a continuing-care facility approved by the Minister,
  9. Canadian Blood Services,
  10. any other individual or organization or class of individual or class of organization as prescribed by regulation as a custodian;

The following are additional custodians defined in the Regulations:

  1. a Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centre;
  2. a home care agency that is approved by the Department of Health and Wellness and has a service agreement with a district health authority under the Health Authorities Act or with the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre;
  3. a home oxygen agency that is approved by and has a service agreement with the Department of Health and Wellness.

Personal Health Information is defined as:

identifying information about an individual, whether living or deceased, and in both recorded and unrecorded forms, if the information

  1. relates to the physical or mental health of the individual, including information that consists of the health history of the individual’s family,
  2. relates to the application, assessment, eligibility and provision of health care to the individual, including the identification of a person as a provider of health care to the individual,
  3. relates to payments or eligibility for health care in respect of the individual,
  4. relates to the donation by the individual of any body part or bodily substance of the individual or is derived from the testing or examination of any such body part or bodily substance,
  5. is the individual’s registration information, including the individual’s health-card number, or
  6. identifies an individual’s substitute decision-maker;

The legislation contains extensive provisions dealing with the use of agents by custodians to process or handle personal health information on their behalf and mandatory provisions regarding notification if personal health information is stolen, lost or subject to unauthorized access, use, disclosure, copying or modification. Notification is, however, only required if there is potential for harm or embarrassment to the individual.

In addition to protecting personal health information, the legislation provides for access by individuals to their personal health information and rights to correct such information. Oversight is provided by the Privacy Review Officer who also oversees the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.