What Is Confidentiality?
Confidentiality is the protection of personal information. This includes personal health information, which is characterized as information about an individual relating to their physical or mental health. These services are governed by both the Health Information Protective Act and Brock University’s privacy regulation.
Confidentiality means keeping a student’s information to yourself, unless you think it is in the best interest of the student to share this information with either Student Health Services, Personal Counselling and/or Services for Students with Disabilities. These services can collect information from a faculty or staff member, but are not allowed to share information without signed consent.
It’s important to note at Brock, Student Health Services, Personal Counselling and Services for Students with Disabilities work in a comprehensive circle of care. Confidentiality, within this circle of care, is discussed with each student when they access any one of these three services. Unless a student specifically withdraws their consent, these three areas may share information on a “need to know” basis, when necessary, for the student’s care and support. A student can give or withdraw their consent for this circle of care at any time.
All of these services collect personal health information and are required to keep each student’s documents (medical records, counselling and case files) confidential. They are always kept secure and separate from other University records. Information in the documents cannot be released to anyone without the person’s specific consent.
Documentation supporting the need for academic supports or accommodation should be provided only to the people who need to be aware of the information.
It’s essential to protect personal information that directly or indirectly identifies a student has a mental health condition. Faculty shouldn’t speak about or make reference to a student’s personal situation in front of their class or other students, disclose a student’s personal information to other faculty/staff without permission, leave personal information in plain view or use a student’s name when discussing a general health related issue or situation.
Access to Information
Please note while health professionals are able to accept information from all sources, confidentiality laws do not permit the sharing of any information without a signed release. This includes sharing with parents, family, faculty, staff or anyone else. The “third party authorization form” signed by some students in specific departments, does not allow the release of confidential information from the above services.
There are certain circumstances where information could potentially be released. This would only be necessary to comply with legal or professional obligations. For example:
- All employees are legally required to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse that is currently occurring or may occur.
- In rare situations involving court action, employees and/or records could be subpoenaed.
- When an employee has reason to believe a student could pose a physical threat to her/himself or another individual, the employee has a duty and obligation to report the details of the threat to the proper authorities, including on-campus/university security. There must be a clear and identifiable risk (serious bodily harm, death) and the danger must be imminent to warrant disclosure of this information.