Every few weeks, I take a look back on the stories that made an impact on me. Here is a roundup of my latest top 10 from Feb. 16-28, 2019.

  1. One of the biggest issues related to the advance of digital health in Canada and elsewhere is the protection and ethical use of personal health data. Stanford University and a compendium of industry partners are working on developing a set of guiding principles to ensure the ethical use of digital health technology. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
  2. There has been a vigorous debate over the past few weeks about the non-profit lab AI deciding against releasing a text-generation algorithm named GPT-2, due to concerns over “malicious applications.” More specifically, the algorithm can generate content related to specific lines of text such as headlines, stoking fears that it could contribute to the “fake news” epidemic that exploded with the 2016 U.S. federal election.
  3. As you can see, the protection of personal health data is a recurring theme in many discussions of digital health. In this story, Facebook was under fire for receiving highly personal and sensitive data from smartphone apps – even if the users didn’t have Facebook accounts. Stories like these are why the above-mentioned efforts to create guiding principles on the ethical use of personal data are so important.
  4. Dr. Sumbul Desai, Apple’s VP of Health, said in an interview that the company sees its health strategy as, eventually, one of its most important contributions to mankind. And despite its advances, she says, the company’s digital health work is still in its infancy.
  5. Another key issue in the successful implementation of digital health is front-line education. To ensure physicians approach their practices with a digital mindset from the very beginning of their careers, Kaiser Permanente has announced it is launching a medical school in 2010 that will prepare doctors for practice in a digital age.
  6. There is good news on the interoperability front, in that more is happening, and, for the most part, many types of data can be shared among providers. But according to KLAS, there is still a big gap when it comes to less structured content, even among vendors who are the most advanced in this area.
  7. Nova Scotia is making headway in its efforts to digitize its health records, and while pretty much everyone agrees modernizing is essential, following a number of high-profile data breaches, the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner wants to ensure that protection of personal privacy is built into the system. 
  8. U.S. lawmakers are considering a national data protection law to replace the patchwork of state and regional laws. Will Canada follow suit?
  9. U.S.-based Doctor on Demand announced a multicomponent virtual primary care platform designed to integrate with U.S. health plans’ and employers’ existing networks. The tool is targeted to people who don’t have a primary care physician but who would benefit from preventive care, as well as those with chronic conditions. It’s inevitable that Canada will also see more of these services pop up, but it remains to be seen how we incorporate these digital services into our universal healthcare system.
  10. March 1 was the BCHIMPS Spring Education Symposium! To get an idea of some of the topics that panelists and speakers would be sharing at the event, we spoke to KenSci Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg McKelvey about the work his company is doing in healthcare-focused AI and the way it can be used to support health systems and care providers.