On June 1, 2013, the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) comes into force. If you are involved in health care in Nova Scotia, you need to know whether PHIA applies to you.

PHIA is provincial legislation which will govern the collection, use, disclosure, retention and disposal and destruction of personal health information by a custodian or an individual to whom a custodian has disclosed the information.

To determine whether PHIA applies to you, you must understand what is meant by “personal health information” and you need to know whether you are a “custodian”.

What is Personal Health Information?

Personal health information is identifying information about an individual if the information:

  1. relates to the physical or mental health of that individual;
  2. relates to the health history of the individual’s family; 
  3. relates to the provision of health care to the individual; 
  4. relates to payments or eligibility for health care in respect of the individual; 
  5. relates to the donation by the individual of any of their body parts or bodily substances; 
  6. is derived from the testing or examination of any such body part or bodily substance; 
  7. is the individual’s registration information, including the individual’s health-card number; or 
  8. identifies an individual’s substitute decision-maker.

Personal health information includes information both in recorded and unrecorded form; it does not matter whether the person whose information is being collected or disclosed is alive or dead. Even identifying oneself as a provider of healthcare to a person could constitute disclosure of that person’s personal health information.

Are You a Custodian?

A custodian is an individual or organization defined in PHIA who has custody or control of personal health information as a result of, or in connection with, performing the individual’s or organization’s powers or duties.

If you are any of the following, you are a Custodian:

  • a District Health Authority or the IWK; 
  • the Review Board under the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act
  • Canadian Blood Services; 
  • Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centre; 
  • a pharmacy licensed under the Pharmacy Act
  • a continuing-care facility licensed by the Minister under the Homes for Special Care Act or approved by the Minister; 
  • a home care agency approved by the Department of Health and Wellness and with a service agreement with a District Health Authority under the Health Authorities Act or with the IWK; 
  • a regulated health professional or an individual who operates a group practice of regulated health professionals; 
  • a home oxygen agency approved by and with a service agreement with the Department of Health and Wellness.

You are not a custodian if you are a health professional that is not regulated in Nova Scotia.

However, if you are a custodian and you are collecting, using or disclosing personal health information, PHIA applies to you.