November 2019
Ministry of Health Announces Digital-First Health Plan

2019-11-19 2:27:09 PM

CATEGORIES: Access & Privacy

Minister of Health Christine Elliot has announced plans relating to the province’s “digital first” health-care transformation plan, which the government says will help end hallway health care by offering more choices.

The five pillars of the Digital First for Health Strategy are as follows:

  1. More virtual options:

    • Expanding the availability of video visits and other virtual care tools such as secure messaging with physicians

  2. Expand access to online appointment booking

  3. Greater data access for patients:

    • Patients will be able to review their secure health record online

  4. More connected and better tools for front line providers:

    • Providers will be able to access patient records stored across multiple health service providers

  5. Data integration and predictive analytics:

    • Providers can use secure health information to manage health resources and improve patient care that could lead to improvements, such as earlier intervention and better management of chronic disease.

To support this, the government will invest $3 million in funding to compensate physicians for video visits.

This strategy will be achieved through the proposed changes the province is making to modernize the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

Privacy experts, however, have raised concerns relating to the Strategy’s fifth pillar, data integration and predictive analysis. This is following the Globe and Mail obtaining a confidential Ministry of Health slide presentation on modernizing PHIPA, which has experts warning the government may not have sufficient protections in place to ensure patient health data is secure.

Under the proposal, data gathered from artificial intelligence techniques, such as machine learning, could reveal patterns that researchers and companies can use to develop new treatments and innovations for the benefit of the public and improve healthcare.

However, if there are not protections in place to anonymize the data, it could be made public “by bad actors or used by third parties, such as insurers or marketers, for profit”.

The province has said it will continue to consult with patients, health-care providers, privacy experts, as well as the Ontario Privacy Commissioner, to move to the next phase of a digital first health strategy.

For more information, please see below:

Ontario Newsroom: Ontario Expanding Digital and Virtual Health Care

Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)

Globe and Mail: Ontario’s Health Ministry mulls sharing health data with researchers, certain third parties as part of privacy update


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