Big Data and the risk of infectious diseases, a new report warns.
And it’s a new way of doing business that could put people’s health at risk.
The report, which was released this week by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said the emergence of big data technologies is creating new problems for the health care system, where the pace of data collection and processing can overwhelm the health-care system.
Health Canada has set up a task force to investigate how to best manage the huge amount of data collected about Canadians by employers and by public health officials.
The task force, chaired by the University of Guelph’s Professor Michael Schmitt, has proposed a series of steps to help ensure that data is used wisely.
For example, Health Canada has recommended that employers use standardised reporting requirements for data collection, and that public health authorities establish data-sharing agreements with companies that collect, store and share data.
Schmitt said the task force should also establish a framework for how to deal with the information that companies gather and use.
Health Canada also has proposed setting up an agency to oversee the data sharing agreements.
Other recommendations include establishing a system to provide clear guidelines for how data is handled, and requiring that companies and governments disclose any and all information they collect about Canadians.
Health and Wellness Canada is also proposing new policies for data protection.
For example, the agency is recommending that data be treated as public health information and subject to the same privacy protections as other health information.
The government is also asking for industry to work with it to make sure data about Canadians is used responsibly.
For instance, Health and WellnesCanada is calling for more information about how health information is being collected and used.
“As an industry, we need to be more proactive and have a more clear understanding of what data is being used, how that data will be used, and how we can use that information to improve health outcomes,” said Dr. David Egan, director of health services at the University College London’s Institute for Health Policy and Management.
The University of Waterloo’s Professor Peter Smith said data that has already been collected by health authorities and other government agencies should not be used as a source of information for other purposes.
“I’m concerned that when we have information that we’re using to support a policy, we’re then potentially putting the health of our patients at risk,” he said.
“The government should be looking at what they’re doing and making sure they’re keeping data that is safe, reliable and useful.”
While data collection in this country is already overseen by the Department of Health, the taskforce recommends the Department should establish a data-collection and sharing agency that would work with industry to ensure the protection of public health.
Smith said it’s important to understand how data collection has been done, and to use that data for good rather than bad.
“We need to get more data about how we use data and we need that data to help us decide how we’re going to use our data and what we’re trying to achieve,” he added.
“There’s a lot of data out there that is good and that we can all use.
It’s the data that’s going to lead to some of the health outcomes that we want.”