Growth in Health Data & Building a Framework of Trust for Digital Health

Digital identity touches various industries, and is key in making digital services secure, efficient and accessible. In a sensitive industry such as health care, a lot is at stake, and trust and security are paramount. 

Digital health and data privacy were the focus of the most recent IdentityNORTH webinar, featuring Balraj Dhillon, Simeio Solutions’ Director of Engagement, and Eric Sutherland,  Executive Director, Data Governance Strategy at the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)

The two discussed the wealth of health care data that is available today, and the importance of interoperability within this data network. How can we build a framework of trust for digital health? How can a patient manage their data? 

Sutherland cited an example of a successful system in the country of Finland, where patients have access to the audit logs of their health records, so they are able to see who has accessed them. “If they go into a medical appointment and see that the doctor they are meeting has not looked at their records, the patient can then question the doctor, [asking] I am ready to meet with you, why aren’t you ready to meet with me?” This is influencing positive change in patients become leaders in their own medical care.

Mobile health presents tremendous opportunities, but few are aware of its capabilities

“This is only possible if you have interoperable records where patients have access to what is being done with their data,” he noted.   

Mobile health presents tremendous opportunities, but there are still many steps to be taken, including increasing public awareness. For instance, only 43.4 per cent believe that mobile health will improve self-care. “I don’t think we are even at the cusp of innovation and allowing patients to maximize mobile health,” said Dhillon. “Patients may or may not be aware of [its] innovation capabilities,” he said. 

Sutherland pointed out the importance of improving the data analytic and digital literacy of the public, enabling people to see how Canada’s progress compares to other countries. “[Canada] is not that far behind, but we have an opportunity to step on the gas,” he advised.  

Dhillon explained Simeio’s Patient Trust Framework, which puts the patient at the centre. The goal of the framework is to establish a verified patient identity. In order for innovation to occur, a verified identity is necessary, and this is something that Simeio is working towards, as well as interoperability and the ability to leverage health data.  

“The technology exists to integrate different data sets, and a policy discussion needs to take place so that our leaders within the government understand where technology is taking us within the health care space,” he said. 

eHealth Ontario’s Federated Single Sign on Initiative 

At the 2019 IdentityNORTH Annual Summit, the application of digital identity in health care was a major focus, and included some examples of initiatives that are currently underway. 

Balraj Dhillion and Doug Watt, Senior Vice President of Products at eHealth Ontario, spoke about reducing friction for health care providers through the use of a single sign-on solution. 

Watt told the audience that after he suffered a heart attack two years ago, he was shocked that the hospital in Collingwood didn’t have access to his electronic health records or angiogram. He ended up spending five days in the hospital for a problem that should have been solved in ten minutes. 

Balraj Dhillon & Doug Watt

As a result of his prolonged stay, he set about improving the provision of health care and tying all the interactions between patients and providers together. “Patient identification and provider identification must go hand in hand,” he said. When asked about the challenges of setting up a single sign-on system, Watt detailed the scale of Ontario hospitals as well as the lack of interoperability in the province. 

The single sign-on solution will not only be good for patients, but will also improve the workflow of clinicians and let them get back to focusing on patient care. 

When Dhillon asked about technological disparities and whether or not Ontario was really so different from other provinces, Watt pointed out that, “Ontario is bigger, but as soon as you have multiple systems in any geography or region you have the same problems. Ontario just has it on a bigger scale,” he said, adding: ‘’We can learn from any jurisdiction that’s trying to crack the problem.” 

He also said that while there is a tendency to do all or nothing in health care, interim steps can really make a big difference. 

Watt also spoke about the importance of patient safety and privacy, as well as catering to generational differences. He cited examples of his mother, who refuses to use a credit card online, versus his children who haven’t made a purchase from a brick and mortar store in ages. “We have an obligation to protect people from things they don’t know they need to know about privacy,” he said. 

For more details on the IdentityNORTH 2019 Annual Summit sessions, including  “eHealth Ontario’s Federated Single Sign on Initiative ‘Provincial Access Appliance’,” join our community mailing list to view the full Conference Report.

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