The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) regards the access to personal information for research purposes as an important privilege. Protecting the privacy of individuals whose personal information is used in our research and the confidentiality of personal information in our custody is an integral commitment of IWH.
We meet this research commitment by:
- establishing clear principles and policies for the protection of personal information, emphasizing high standards of organizational, technical and physical security practices and protocols;
- communicating privacy protection policies and practices to IWH staff, affiliates and stakeholders;
- restricting access to personal information to those members of the organization who have authorized access for research purposes;
- submitting research protocols involving personal information to external research ethics boards;
- designating the position of IWH Privacy Officer to oversee the Institute's privacy protection polices and practices;
- ensuring all staff are trained in the principles and practices of personal information protection and requiring all staff to annually commit, in writing, to respect the Institute's principles, policies and practices in the protection of personal information; and
- ensuring that the Institute's policies and practices are consistent with the best national and international standards of privacy protection in health research and legislative requirements.
Use of secondary data and record linkage
Secondary or administrative data sources can be very useful resources for research. These data sources are collected by organizations to conduct their business. For example, the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board collects information in the course of administering employee compensation claims and collecting employer insurance premiums. These types of data generally provide savings in cost and time and reductions in respondent burden as compared to direct surveying or interviewing. Often, these data sources cover entire populations.
Contemporary standards for ethical research practice expect that researchers obtain informed consent from people who are invited to participate in research. It is often not feasible to obtain individual consent from people whose information is recorded in administrative records. To address this special circumstance, enhanced standards for using secondary data sources without individual consent are being developed through the initiative called Harmonizing Research & Privacy, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
The Institute for Work & Health is committed to respecting these standards and the guidance outlined in the CIHR document Best Practices for Protecting Privacy in Health Research (September 2005). To that end, whenever we plan to conduct a study using secondary data and/or record linkage without individual consent, we submit our study protocol for ethical review to a Research Ethics Board at a recognized organization. This submission includes assessments of the benefits of conducting the research, the risks involved, whether other methods could be used and the safeguards in place to protect the data and the confidentiality of the study subjects.
The following is a sample list of research projects being conducted at the Institute for Work & Health that are using secondary data without individual consent. Click on any of the following to view a summary.
- Workplace Safety & Insurance Board Data for Research Purposes (PDF, 95KB)
- Workplace Safety & Insurance Board and WorkSafeBC Lost-Time Injuries and Income Sources Post-Injury (IWH # 406/418) (PDF, 95 KB)
- Early Opioid Prescriptions for Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Low Back (IWH # 2170) (PDF, 167 KB)
- Methods for Surveillance of Work Injury by Time of Day in Ontario (IWH # 1185) (PDF, 86 KB)
- Improving information on worker health protection in Ontario: a study based on record linkage (IWH # 1370) (PDF, 67 KB)
Who to contact
For more information about privacy and confidentiality policies and procedures at the Institute, or to express any concerns about the Institute's handling of private or confidential information, please contact:
Dr. Monique Gignac
Associate Scientific Director & IWH Privacy Officer