Contracts – Data Sharing Agreements

Overview of Issue

Data sharing agreements are contracts which outline terms and conditions for collecting, using, exchanging, retaining, or disclosing data/information for a defined purpose within a defined timeframe between two or more parties. In addition, they specify provisions related to accountability for maintaining the security and privacy of the shared data/information. From a risk management perspective, important requirements included in data sharing agreements are specifications for who owns the shared data/information, how confidentiality will be maintained, and security and safeguards taken by each party to protect the data/information during transmission and/or in storage.

HIROC recommends that subscribers have their corporate counsel (and privacy officer if personal health information is involved) review all contracts.

Refer to related Risk Notes: Contracts – Important Provisions, Contracts – Indemnification Clause with Hold Harmless and Defense Provisions

Key Points

  • Data sharing agreements must delineate who is accountable for maintaining the security and privacy of the shared data/information.

Things to Consider

Common Clauses

  • A data sharing agreement typically includes clauses related to the following:
    • Ownership of data;
    • Confidentiality and privacy;
    • Security and access;
    • Accuracy and data quality;
    • Record maintenance requirements;
    • Quality assurance;
    • Scope of services and functionality;
    • Termination for convenience;
    • Termination and the continuity of operation of the electronic medical system;
    • Indemnification;
    • Limitation of liability;
    • Representation and warranties;
    • Dispute resolution;
    • Funding; and
    • Governing law.


  • Data sharing agreements should specify what data/ information is being shared between parties and the purpose for sharing this information.

Ownership of Data

  • Data sharing agreements should specify:
    • Which party has ownership of the data being shared and who owns the data at the termination of the agreement;
    • Who has access to the shared data/information and why; 
    • Accuracy of the data/information, method of exchange, its frequency and duration.


  • If patient data is being shared, the original data should be retained in the health record.

Confidentiality and Privacy

  • Data sharing agreements should:
    • Clarify applicable provincial/territorial legislation governing the protection of personal health information and remind the parties of their obligations to comply with the legislation;
    • Outline what patient information can be collected, used, retained, and disclosed on the basis of implied consent. If explicit patient consent is required, this should be stated;
    • Consider if confidentiality should survive termination of the agreement;
    • Clarify how data/information will be returned/ destroyed at the termination of the agreement. A secure method of destruction is paramount and should be detailed in the agreement if applicable. If the data/information is not returned/destroyed at the termination of the agreement, the agreement should outline the retention period;
    • Clarify how responsibility for costs and notifications for privacy breaches will be addressed.
  • Relevant organizational policies may be referenced in this section of the agreement, e.g. confidentiality policy and the need to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Safeguards and Security

  • Data sharing agreements should:
    • Specify security measures, safeguards, and precautions to be taken to minimize the risk of loss, corruption, theft, or unauthorized access to shared data/information. Typical safeguards include: encryption, firewalls, strong password policies, secure file transfer, data back-up strategies, audits to determine unauthorized access, etc.;
    • Outline what happens if there is a privacy or security breach and the process for patient notification if required. This includes consequences for improper use or disclosure of patient information.

Key Contacts

  • Data sharing agreements should include key contacts should something go wrong and a contact person(s) at the organization needs to be notified quickly. This typically differs from the individual who signs the contract as they may be less accessible in an emergency


  • The insurance clause should include a thirty-day prior notice of material change to, cancellation and nonrenewal of the insurance policy. This is important so that all participants are aware of significant changes in coverage.
  • Ensure the third party’s insurance includes:
    • Privacy breach costs, including notification;
    • Cyber coverage.