There is not currently consolidated legislation that comprehensively focuses on health information privacy in British Columbia. However, there are several laws that overlap and affect personal health information privacy. The following list is non-exhaustive but lists the key legislation:
Under most of these laws, you have a right to be informed about the collection, use and disclosure of your information, in addition to the rights to consent and access your personal health information.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Ministry of Health Act, the Health Authorities Act, and the Public Health Act all protect the privacy of your personal health information stored in the electronic systems of health authorities.
Health authorities do not have a duty of confidentiality. Therefore, the following legislation protects the privacy of your personal health information held by health authorities: the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Ministry of Health Act, the Health Authorities Act, and the Public Health Act.
The following list is non-exhaustive but contains most of the legislation that is relevant to health privacy information:
Please visit the following page for information about when and how you give your consent.
Please visit the following page for information about how to get access to your personal information.
BC’s Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) applies to private organizations in BC, either for-profit or not-for-profit. Common private organizations in the health field include physician practices, private clinics, and other private health care providers. Similar to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”), PIPA applies to personal information. If an authority is governed by FIPPA, then it will not be governed by PIPA and vice versa.
PIPA applies to privately operated or not-for-profit residential or treatment facilities. This includes but is not limited to all of the following when they are in private practice or employed by a company:
Please visit the following page for more relevant health privacy resources. In addition, please visit the Ministry of Health’s page on professional regulation for more information about regulated health professions and for links to their regulatory colleges.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”) applies to “public bodies”, which is a technical term that refers to all government entities. This includes but is not limited to:
FIPPA also applies to all service providers to public bodies, including not-for-profit organizations that are government service providers. If an authority is governed by BC’s Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”), then it will not be governed by FIPPA and vice versa.
FIPPA provides you some options to protect your personal information. For example, you may put some limits on when your personal health information that is held by a public body can be further used and disclosed after the original purposes, unless the disclosure is specifically authorized by law.
The Public Health Act allows a public body to collect, use, and disclose personal information for a number of purposes associated with public health matters. This includes providing health care to the individual, for public health and health system management purposes, and for health research purposes. Personal information collected under these parts of the Public Health Act can be used or disclosed for a “stewardship purpose” under the Ministry of Health Act.
The Ministry of Health Act gives the Minister of Health the power to collect personal information from a public body, use personal information, and disclose information to a public body if the Minister is satisfied that the personal information is needed to fulfill a stewardship purpose.
Stewardship purposes are “secondary purposes” and include but are not limited to planning, developing, monitoring, evaluating and maintaining programs, activities and health care bodies. They also include health research, and anything else that is necessary to exercise the powers or duties of the Minister under a law or a regulation.
A person cannot limit what is done with their personal health information for a stewardship purpose and does not receive notice when it is collected, used, or disclosed.
The E-Health Act permits the BC government to designate large databases of health information held in the public system (generally by a health authority) as a Health Information Bank (a “HIB”) and require it to be filled with information from doctors, other health care providers, labs, and others. The intent of the E-Health Act is to enable the creation of a province-wide electronic system for storing and accessing patient records.
Different laws will apply to your health information depending on whether it is held in the private sector or the public health system.
The Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) applies to your information when it is held in the private sector such as by your family physician or other private health care provider. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”) applies when your health information is held in the public sector such as in a public hospital, public clinic, or health authority. When your health information is held by a body, either PIPA or FIPPA will be applicable, but not both. However, it is important to note that your health information will usually be held by several bodies at any given moment.
For example, when your information is held in your family doctor’s file, it is protected by the security requirements established by PIPA. When the information is in the Medical Services Plan (“MSP”), the file is protected by the security requirements established by FIPPA. Regardless of whether FIPPA or PIPA applies, access to information must be limited to those who have a legitimate purpose to “need to know”.
These pages were last updated and reviewed in August of 2022.
The information on these pages only contains general information and guidance; none of the information constitutes legal advice. If you have a specific issue that you believe is a legal problem, the best practice is to consult a lawyer.
The information is non-partisan, dynamic and ever changing. It is the result of FIPA’s research and public education programs.
If you note something that needs to be added, corrected, or removed, please contact us by email: fipa AT fipa.bc.ca.