Tag: putting

Some virtual care companies putting patient data at risk, new study finds

This story is part of CBC Health’s Second Opinion, a weekly analysis of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers on Saturday mornings. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


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.

A female doctor with long, brown hair standing in a medical office.
Dr. Sheryl Spithoff, a physician and scientist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, co-authored a new study that found the for-profit virtual care industry valued patient data and ‘appears to view data as a revenue stream.’ (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

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

Quebec doctors say emergency room overcrowding is putting patient health at risk

MONTREAL — Overcrowding in Quebec hospitals is “out of control” and putting the lives of patients at risk, says a group representing chief doctors in the province’s emergency departments.

MONTREAL — Overcrowding in Quebec hospitals is “out of control” and putting the lives of patients at risk, says a group representing chief doctors in the province’s emergency departments.

ER occupancy rates are among the highest ever recorded in the province, said Dr. Sophie Gosselin, a spokeswoman for Regroupement des chefs d’urgence du Québec. A lack of co-ordination and a shortage of resources have left many ERs caring for patients who should be moved to hospital wards, she added.

“We are saying we can’t let things get any worse, it’s going to be really dangerous,” Gosselin said in an interview Monday.

On Friday, less than two weeks after officials confirmed they were investigating two deaths at a Montreal-area ER, her group sent a letter to Health Minister Christian Dubé warning that the situation in Quebec’s emergency rooms is “out of control.”

Those high-profile deaths are just the tip of the iceberg, Dr. Marie-Maud Couture, the group’s president, wrote to Dubé. “Overcrowding in the emergency department leads to daily mortality.”

A spokesman for Quebec’s health minister did not respond to a request for comment.

Health data website Index Santé said the average emergency department occupancy in Quebec on Monday afternoon was 134 per cent; that figure hasn’t been below 100 per cent since Nov. 12. Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital was the most crowded, at 217 per cent occupancy, while the Hôtel-Dieu de Sorel northeast of Montreal was at 200 per cent.

According to provincial government data, 32 per cent of ER patients spent more than 24 hours waiting on a stretcher in the seven days leading up to Dec. 11, the most

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