From the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario’s web site:
In-home health care monitoring devices are gaining in prominence. Technological improvements in networking, wireless communications, and the miniaturization of electronics have resulted in a suite of emerging technologies that rely on the collection of information from within the home, from an individual’s body, or both. This new technology brings with it significant potential benefits for both society as a whole and individual citizens, such as reducing strain on health care systems through a more preventative (rather than reactive) approach to potential health care problems, which generally improves an individual’s clinical outcomes and/or independence. In order to create these benefits, however, significant and continuous data collection about the individual is required. Until now, these data have not been accessible, as technologies were not sufficiently advanced to collect necessary information accurately, reliably, and securely. It is important to recognise that these data tend to be of a highly sensitive nature, as they are collected either directly about the individual or about actions taken within his or her home (traditionally the most privacy protected location in one’s daily life). As such, people’s privacy must be at the forefront of these new technologies and be strongly protected. In this white paper, we describe a general technology that is commonly used to collect data for in-home health care monitoring systems – sensors and sensor networks. We then identify the points of interest within such a system with regard to privacy, and describe some of the considerations that might be made when determining appropriate privacy protections. To demonstrate this approach, we will describe examples of devices being developed by the University of Toronto’s Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab (IATSL).
You can access the full paper here. In explaining the need for privacy by design, the writers note:
The application of remote sensors to the provision of health care – particularly as sensors and data collection enter the home – brings additional factors to the already complex issue of health information privacy. Kotz et al. (2009), for instance, identify three particular features of remote home health care that have implications for privacy. Applied to sensor technologies, these features are as follows:
- More medical data may be collected about a patient, as sensors allow continual monitoring of health characteristics over an extended period;
- Broader health data may be collected about the patient; in addition to physiological data, information about an individual’s lifestyle and activities may be recorded.
- A broader range of applications may be enabled by the range of data made available through the use of sensor technologies.
The ability to maintain the privacy and security of patient information will be a key determinant of the success of remote home health care systems (see, for instance, the findings of Mihailidis et al., 2008). Of course, in ensuring privacy, the ability of these systems to aid in the provision of care cannot be compromised. What then, is the best manner of achieving these dual goals? The answer lies with Privacy by Design and the positive-sum paradigm.