To give you care and treatment
Your consent (your agreement) is needed for your health care provider to collect, use or disclose your personal health information for the purpose of giving you health care or treatment. The type of consent that is normally used is "implicit consent" which is the type of consent that exists when it is obvious in the situation that you agree.
Your health care provider is allowed by law to assume that you have consented to them collecting your personal health information from you or from others, because most of the time it is obvious that they may need some of your personal health information so they can give you care and treatment.
So what this means is that although your consent is needed for your health care provider to collect, use or disclose your personal health information, he or she will probably not ask you specifically at each appointment or before they send some information to others, or get some information from others.
You may have filled out a form at your first appointment that included your consent, or they may simply be relying on their assumption that it is obvious that you want them to give or get whatever information they think is necessary.
So, if you do not want them to assume you consent to a collection or disclosure of your personal health information, you have to tell them.
For more information see Limiting Who Else Can See Your Health Record.
To do Research
Your health care provider has to ask you first, before he or she can collect, use or disclose your personal health information for health research purposes. Also, once they've collected information for the purpose of giving you care or treatment, they cannot use or disclose that information for health research without telling you first and getting your consent.
There is one exception to this. A health care provider is allowed to disclose personal health information for research if getting consent is next to impossible (such as if the patient has moved with no forwarding address or the patient has died) and the organization which will get the information has signed an agreement agreeing to stringent conditions. See When Consent Isn't Needed for more information.
Health authorities and government bodies are different. They are allowed to use and disclose your personal health information for health research purposes without asking you first, so long as they follow specific rules. See When Consent Isn't Needed for more information.
To talk to others about your health
Your health care provider is generally not supposed to talk to other people about your health, unless he or she is doing so for the purpose of giving you care and treatment. Depending on the situation, your health care provider may assume it is ok to talk to one or more members of your family about your health. If you have concerns or questions about that, you should speak to your health provider.
If you have told them you don`t want them to collect, use or disclose your personal health information
If you have already given your health care provider specific instructions about not getting, using or sharing your personal health information, they have to follow those instructions until you change your instructions.
The one exception to this is where the law requires them to disclose your personal health information whether or not you consent. For a list of the situations where this can happen, see When Your Consent Isn't Needed.
To contact you for fundraising or marketing purposes
Health care providers are not allowed to use your sensitive personal health information for fundraising purposes, including to contact you to raise funds generally or for specific programs, without getting your consent first. The most common way to get your consent is to include a check box on the registration forms you fill out at your first visit to the provider.
To market products or services to you
A health care provider or business must get your consent to contact you about any products and services they offer. They are not allowed to use your personal information for marketing purposes without your consent.
One common way to get consent is to use a type of reverse or "opt-out" consent. On their forms the provider might include check boxes which state something like: "I do not want you to contact me about new products or services I might be interested in." If you do NOT check the box, you have consented to being contacted.