Succession Planning for Client Records

BACKGROUND

Marina is an OT with a private practice providing psychotherapy treatment to her clients. She works out of her home office and is the health information custodian of the client records. Marina has been working privately for seven years and is aware that she needs to securely retain client records for 10 years as outlined in the Standards for Record Keeping. She retains records in a locked filing cabinet in her home office. Only Marina has access to the office, and the door is locked daily after she sees her last client. 

One day, Marina is speaking to her friend, who is also an OT in private practice. Her friend discusses some health concerns that she has been experiencing. She informs Marina that due to the prognosis of her illness she is not certain how much longer she will be able to continue working.Marina’s friend has sought the advice of a lawyer and an accountant. Additionally, she has called the College to discuss potential considerations for her practice.

Her friend discusses her succession planning with Marina informing her that she will be identifying a successor for her records. Marina admits that she has not given much thought to succession planning and is uncertain who can act as a successor.

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Marina goes to the College website and reviews the Standards for Record Keeping. She notes that Standard 8 pertains to Discontinuation or Transfer of Practice.

  • Performance indicator 8.1 states that OTs will “develop and when appropriate implement a plan for management of client records for planned or unexpected discontinuation of practice to ensure client access to their records. The plan may include secure retention and storage of the documents or transfer of the client records to another person who is legally authorized to hold the records or to a successor Health Information Custodian in keeping with the provisions defined in the PHIPA”.

  • Marina calls the Practice Resource Service at the College, who suggests that she also review the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario’s (IPC’s) website. She is directed to three of their resources regarding succession planning (listed in References section). 

OUTCOME

Marina determines that since she is in private practice and is a health information custodian, she needs to develop a succession plan for her client records. She reviews the IPC’s resources and determines the following:

  • Her succession plan has to identify a person who would be responsible during the transfer of records for: maintaining the security of records, responding to clients’ access requests, making agreements with agents (such as a record storage company) setting out their duties concerning the records, and notifying clients of the transfer.
  • She notes that she can only transfer records to a successor who is already a health information custodian. 

  • If she uses a record storage company to assist with the retention, transfer or disposal of health records, they would become an “agent” and Marina would remain the health information custodian. 

  • She must review and update the succession plan on a regular basis and when there is a change in circumstances that could affect the transfer of her client records to a successor. 

DISCUSSION

OTs who are health information custodians are required to have a plan in place to manage client records upon planned or unexpected discontinuation of their practice, for example, resignation, revocation of licence, death, disability, or leave of absence.

REFERENCES 

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

CONTACT

If you have any questions about this case, or have any ideas or requests for future cases, contact the Practice Resource Service: 1.800.890.6570/416.214.1177x240 or practice@coto.org.

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