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Right to Rectification and the Healthcare Industry

What is the Right to Rectification and What it Implies

Article 16 of the GDPR – Right to rectification

The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller without undue delay the rectification of inaccurate personal data concerning him or her. Taking into account the purposes of the processing, the data subject shall have the right to have incomplete personal data completed, including by means of providing a supplementary statement.

 

Under Article 16 of the GDPR individuals have the right to have inaccurate personal data rectified. An individual may also be able to have incomplete personal data updated – although this will depend on the purposes of the processing.

The same rule naturally applies in the case that the data processor is a caregiver, health provider etc. In accordance with the GDPR, the data subject, a.k.a. the patient is entitled to ask for their personal data to be rectified if it is inaccurate or incomplete. If a third party has been involved, and your medical practice has disclosed patient personal information to them, the patients should be informed about your relationship with the third party. The third parties should also be informed of the rectification where possible.

This, however, does not apply to medical diagnosis or medical opinions, as those represent the opinion of a specialist and hardly contain any personal data.

Let’s assume the following hypothetical situation:

A patient is suffering from a condition. It takes many tests and opinions before a final diagnosis can be reached. It is often impossible for all the various diagnosis to be given at once, so the patient may decide that the initial opinions and suggestions, as well as the initial medical tests, are in fact inaccurate and therefore could be rectified.

However, if the patient’s records accurately reflect the doctor’s diagnosis at the time, the records are not inaccurate, because they reflect a particular doctor’s opinion at a particular time. Moreover, the record of the doctor’s initial diagnosis may help those treating the patient later.

Managing Requests for Rectification

Whenever a patient wishes to exercise the right to rectification medical practices should respond promptly to the request. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) addresses this in its Guide to the GDPR which is summarised below:

  • Requests for rectification could be conducted both verbally and in writing.
  • Requests could be presented in front of any professional, involved or working within the organisation, rather than to a specific person, like the data protection officer.
  • It is a good practice to have a policy and procedure for the right way to maintaining patients’ records, including questionnaires regarding missed details.
  • Keep a log of verbal requests.
  • The right to rectification should be submitted without any fees. An exception to this are fees in regards to certain administrative costs.
  • The requests must be answered promptly and without undue delay. The due date is one calendar month of receipt.

In conclusion, there could be instances where the patient’s data is, in fact, inaccurate and could be asked to be changed. However, when it comes to the line of treatment and the initial inaccurate diagnosis, or just informed medical opinions, this is not a sufficient basis for erasing personal sensitive medical data.

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