When it comes to your health care, how do you view yourself? You’re not just a patient or client but a health consumer. For any consumer, it’s important to understand and exercise your rights.
In Ontario, you can expect certain standards of care and service when dealing with regulated health professionals. The COVID-19 pandemic has in some cases led to an increase in virtual care and services provided by health professionals, and your rights still apply to virtual care. Here are eight things you’re entitled to:
1. Competent, safe and ethical care that meets professional standards. In Ontario, there are 26 health regulatory colleges that oversee more than 350,000 health professionals. The colleges are not schools. They are regulators that set the requirements for entering the profession, create practice standards, require practitioners to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date, and enforce standards of practice and conduct. This helps ensure you receive a high quality of care.
2. Participation in your care. It’s your right to ask questions, and get clear explanations of your health issues and treatment options. This includes discussions about whether or not care or service should be provided virtually. That’s a fundamental part of being involved in your healthcare.
3. Informed consent. It means that after receiving an explanation, you can agree to or refuse any proposed procedure, for any reason, at any time. You must also consent to receiving care and services virtually, and your health professional must explain the benefits and risks to receiving care or service virtually.
4. A second opinion. You have the right to seek advice from another health professional.
5. Your health professional’s record. You can easily access information about their registration with a health regulatory college. Each college has a public register that lists health professionals’ qualifications, special designations, restrictions on their practice (if any), professional misconduct findings, and more. View a health professionals record.
6. Privacy. You can be assured that your personal health information remains confidential. At the same time, you have the right to view and get a copy of that information.
7. An open discussion of costs and fees. Your healthcare provider should explain anything you’re paying for. It should also be clear on invoices that care or service was provided virtually.
8. Voice any concerns about the care you have received. Through a regulatory health college, you can raise any issues about your care, and formally complain if desired. The colleges protect the public by holding regulated health professionals accountable for their conduct and practice.
Health Regulators are Keeping You Safe During COVID-19
On May 26, 2020, many of Ontario’s regulated health professionals were allowed to gradually resume practising after two months of having to reduce or suspend their services to help stop the spread of COVID-19. This change means that you can now see a dentist, audiologist, chiropractor, or massage therapist, among other professionals, for more than just emergency care.
You may feel nervous about booking an appointment during the pandemic and you may have questions about how regulated health professionals are keeping you safe during this time.
As a condition to re-open, Ontario’s more than 350,000 regulated health professionals must follow guidance developed by their regulatory college and Ontario’s Ministry of Health. The colleges are not schools. They are regulatory bodies and they set and enforce standards to keep you and your family safe. Examples of new guidance include stricter cleaning and disinfecting measures, and wearing personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves and masks) to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Here are three things you can do before booking an appointment:
1. View a listing of Ontario’s regulated health professions. From this link, you can access each regulatory college’s website and their guidance for safe return to in-person care/service.
2. Call your practitioner’s office to see what measures they’ve put in place to keep you safe. Ask what’s expected of you before, during and after an appointment. Guidance may differ depending on the profession. You may need to be screened for symptoms when you book your appointment, and again when you arrive. You may be asked to wear a mask (cloth or other) to your appointment and to come alone, if possible.
3. Continue to follow public health advice and recommendations, such as:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water
- Staying home if you’re feeling sick
- Practising physical distancing
Some individual practitioners may make the choice not to return to practice at this time, or may limit the number of appointments they offer. If you are in need of an appointment and want to find another practitioner, visit www.ontariohealthregulators.ca to access each college’s listing of registered practitioners. This listing is called a public register, and it provides you with contact information and registration status for practitioners.
As Ontario gradually re-opens, you can be assured that Ontario’s health regulators are helping to keep you and your loved ones safe.