Patient care and privacy : a Pandemic Paradox?

June is healthcare privacy month!

During the many pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, many of us “digitally literate” citizens found ourselves scrambling to find websites and resources. So many new government protocols were implemented by the authorities but through the rapid changes, the technology did not always seem behave as intended.

 Many organizations have accelerated the move to digital transformation as a matter of survival. The very nature of the pandemic – reduced mobility and physical distancing – has had a multiplier impact on the use of virtual health care, particularly for such things as routine prescriptions. The virtual delivery of health care services seems a logical approach to reducing the spread of Covid-19, yet still achieving an adequate response to patients.

Virtual visits to physicians and other health care professionals were relatively rare, pre-pandemic.

According to a 2020 survey from the Canadian Medical Association, the shift to virtual care may have some staying power. 39% of respondents indicated a willingness/preference for using a virtual healthcare alternative in the future.

Along with financial information, health information is at the top of the very personal and sensitive information list. All of us who opted for vaccination have become patients and we are now surrounded by the most sensitive information during the pandemic: have we received the vaccine or not, have we been infected (tested) or not. This alone warrants a full expectation of privacy.

However, the rapid pace of introduction of the digital health model has revealed some challenging risks to privacy in virtual health care delivery:

  • The tracking behavior by electronic service providers
  • Protocols between health information network providers
  • Vendor selection and contractual relationships with third party service providers
  • Validity of informed consent
  • New technology privacy and security by design safeguards
  • Integrating new and old technologies during an unprecedented time
  • Post virtual visit documentation granularity/security and security of patient care portals

Digital transformation is happening at a rapid pace in many sectors. A 2020 McKinsey and company survey revealed the pandemic as the largest year over year leap in digital adoption by organizations (by almost 20% in North America) in 6 years.

Getting privacy right, through training employees, awareness of the impact of digital services processing data on behalf of your organization, understanding how models of consent have shifted as digital transformation evolves and the urgency of implementing balanced and robust security measures, will enable organizations to harness the market advantage that comes with trust.

If you are working healthcare and have been going through this rapid digital transformation, have you considered conducting:

  • PIAs when integrating new and old technologies
  • Privacy by Design review on bespoke solutions
  • Robust reviews of test cases for software updates and enhancements
  • Vendor privacy and security risk assessments
  • Employee training for work-from-home situations which includes behaviors and technology safeguards

At Managed Privacy Canada we can provide support with all of the above and more. Our Practical Privacy Playbook was created to make privacy “fit” for a pandemic and to help you embed good practices and a common-sense approach to privacy that is symbiotic to patient care. Download our Practical Privacy Playbook today and gain Privacy Anytime, Anywhere™ support:

Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @managedprivacycanada; Twitter: @managedprivacy

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