Virtual healthcare and collaborative research project raising privacy law issues - Lexpert

Susan Newell

Jun 26, 2023

The use of virtual healthcare and telehealth has accelerated rapidly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and, although this technology brings an exciting potential for patients and society at large, it also poses privacy law issues.

Susan Newell, a corporate commercial lawyer in Osler’s Health Industry group, told Lexpert that, during the recent COVID-19 health crisis, enforcement activity may not have been the highest priority of regulators. But now the focus is beginning to shift towards ensuring the appropriate regulation of these services. Susan explains that, since the pandemic, the health industry has seen an increase in awareness of the requirement to comply with existing legislation and, as a result, organizations have become more likely to ensure they use technology appropriately and collect proper consent when providing virtual healthcare to patients.

Susan also observes a recent shift in the standards of how the technology being used to provide virtual care in Ontario is being evaluated. Traditionally, physicians have been required to comply with the standards set out by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, but this rule has recently changed. Now physicians must use technology from a list that has been approved by the Ministry of Health in order to conduct virtual doctor appointments.

“The funding is now driving the safety standards in a way that’s a bit different than what we’ve seen in the past,” commented Susan. She observes two impacts of this new rule. One being that it has the potential to lead towards a greater level of compliance with the rules, and, secondly, that it will create a “higher barrier to entry” for developers of new technology platforms, which will need to meet Ministry standards to be eligible for use by Ontario physicians.

Read the full article by Aidan Macnab published by Lexpert.