Do you remember eHealth? That is the computerized patient information system Ontario’s Ministry of Health has been wasting our money on for years. It is the one where consultants were even billing us for pastries for their tea breaks. It has wasted millions of dollars without producing anything. It has taken so long that the private sector has started offering competitive databases in hopes of capturing the business.
When you consider that the computerized patient database has been under development by the Ontario Ministry of Health since the Mike Harris Conservatives were in power, this is hardly a surprise. The problem is that the same question faces the private sector product as has been holding up the government version: how secure is it?
Nobody can guarantee security. You get the same answer from all the security experts: the only secure room is a room without a door. When you need a system that must be accessed by the medical profession to input data for patients and then be accessed by other medical professionals to assist that patient, security is your main problem. Patient confidentiality is the main consideration.
Take this private sector offering called mihealth. This is a database very much like Facebook. The only difference is that Facebook is very successful in that it has convinced more than 900 million people to provide their profiles which Facebook then sells to marketers. It is the largest invasion of privacy ever perpetrated and the joke is that the participants provide all the information. Those who know in the computer world turn up their noses at Facebook. The bad news for the marketers is that the information they are getting is not necessarily the truth, most of it is trite and boring but, frankly, the marketers are the only ones who care.
In the case of this mihealth database product, if it is less secure than Facebook, it might be immaterial. The mihealth marketing approach is to sell the patient a package—a very expensive package—and then go after the doctors to use it as a medium with which to communicate with their patient. The doctors could do the same thing with e-mails but have probably never thought of it.
We should let the doctors solve the problem. This will be after the doctors in Ontario sit down with the Ministry of Health and everyone plays nice. The province needs a better thought-through funding formula for the medical profession and the doctors need to come down from Mount Olympus and walk with the ordinary people.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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