What happens to a patient’s health information if a custodian becomes unavailable due to sudden injury, illness, or death? If you work in a dispensary where there are multiple custodians, someone at your work will most likely inherit your files. But what if you run your own dispensary?
The Health Information Act (HIA) says that patients have the right to access the information in their files, and that it’s the custodian’s responsibility to keep those files. It’s also the custodian’s responsibility to transfer ownership of files to another custodian if they’re no longer practicing. Finally, a custodian is responsible for ensuring there are policies and procedures in place to follow the HIA. Do you have a plan in place for dire emergencies?
No one likes to think about grim topics like serious injury or death, but tragedy can strike unexpectedly. If an optician is self-employed, a major incident may leave their spouse or children suddenly in charge of patient files. Those family members might not understand the laws surrounding privacy and health information; they may not know how long patient files need to be kept, or what the proper method of disposal is. Furthermore, if they aren’t health practitioners, it’s inappropriate for your family members to be responsible for those files.
Your Successor Plan
That’s why the ACAO has developed a form for custodians to name a successor in case of emergency. All self-employed opticians should fill out this form with the name and address of their successor custodian as well as the location of their files. That way the college has a record of where your files are, and we can direct your patients to your successor should the need arise. The college knowing your succession plan relieves some burden from your family and friends, too; it gives them clarity in a time of grief and allows them to focus on what matters to them most: you.
Help us help you plan ahead; hope for the best, but prepare for the worst to give you, your family, and your patients, peace of mind.