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If you visit a doctor virtually through a commercial app, the information you submit in the app could be used to promote a particular drug or service, says the leader of a new Canadian study involving industry insiders.
The industry insiders “were concerned that care might not be designed to be the best care for patients, but rather might be designed to increase uptake of the drug or vaccine to meet the pharmaceutical company objectives,” said Dr. Sheryl Spithoff, a physician and scientist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.
Virtual care took off as a convenient way to access health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patients to consult with a doctor by videoconference, phone call or text.
It’s estimated that more than one in five adults in Canada — or 6.5 million people — don’t have a family physician or nurse practitioner they can see regularly, and virtual care is helping to fill the void.
But the study’s researchers and others who work in the medical field have raised concerns that some virtual care companies aren’t adequately protecting patients’ private health information from being used by drug companies and shared with third parties that want to market products and services.
Spithoff co-authored the study in this week’s BMJ Open, based on interviews with 18 individuals employed or affiliated with the Canadian virtual care