People have a right to know what health information is held
about them by health professionals, Privacy Commissioner
Marie Shroff says.
Very few consumers knew that they could ask to see what
information their health professionals held about them, Ms
Shroff said today when releasing a privacy toolkit aimed at
both health consumers and health providers as part of Privacy
"It always surprises people to learn that they have a right
of access to health information about themselves.
"Yet this is a vitally important right."
The toolkit also contained case notes (summaries of actual
health-related privacy complaints), an updated privacy
reference guide, the Health Information Privacy Code and
commentary, and a training presentation.
Ms Shroff said it was expected that the tools would help
health providers to get their information handling right.
"The relationship between a person and their health
professional is based on confidentiality and trust.
"We know health professionals do their best to get things
right but it's very important for consumers to know that they
have rights in relation to health information about them."
It was becoming increasingly important to know what
information was held about consumers, by whom, and where it
"Health information is like all other kinds of information
about us - it's not stuck in a paper file these days," Ms
"Instead, it's in digital form in networked computer systems,
on databases and even online."
Electronic health records presented great opportunities to
create better, more efficient health care and it was easier
than ever for health information to get to the right people
at the right time.
However, there were risks that needed to be managed,
including risks to security and privacy, she said.
"Consumers need the chance to participate in the conversation
about how their health information can be appropriately
They needed some control and they could only do that if they
knew what was going on, Ms Shroff said.
The health information privacy tool kit is available from
Privacy Commissioner's website at: http://privacy.org.nz/health-privacy-toolkit/