The Babylon Telus Health app, which was to give Albertans an alternative way to seek medical advice, is now under investigation by the Information Privacy Commissioner, Jill Clayton.
Telus Health announced on March 19, 2020 that it had partnered with the Government of Alberta to deliver physician services via smartphones.
According to a news release from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta (OIPC) dated April 21, the investigation was opened due to separate privacy impact assessments (PIAs) that a Calgary-based physician and Babylon Health Canada Limited had submitted on the app.
“No one is required to use Babylon by Telus Health. I encourage physicians or patients with concerns about this app to remain opted out of using it while my office reviews the app’s compliance with Alberta’s privacy laws,” said Clayton in the release.
Battle River Medical Clinic (BRMC) in Ponoka is reminding residents that physicians at the clinic are offering telephone appointments every day of the week and advises it will be launching video-conferencing appointments soon.
“We want to reiterate that Ponoka’s physicians are here for our patients,” said Dr. Gregory Sawisky, a BRMC physician.
“Patients are often able to get a phone call back from their doctor the same day. If their doctor is unavailable, the Daily Access Clinic doctor can call them back.”
Sawisky says Babylon’s physicians do not have access to your health records, your medical history or your medication and sometimes don’t even reside in Alberta.
“We strongly object to the creation of a separate app that does nothing to improve patient care, especially when we have been working hard to adapt to the pandemic with telephone appointments,” he said.
“Sadly, the provincial government has been promoting this app over patients seeing their own physician digitally. We are beginning to wonder when Jason Kenney’s assault on health care in this province will end.”
The OIPC will be looking into compliance concerns that were identified during the PIA review, as well as whether the app complies with Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act and Health Information Act.
The investigation has the NDP Opposition Critic for Health David Shepherd calling for UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s resignation.
“Albertans have a right to expect their privacy and health information will be handled with the greatest respect and in accordance with the law,” said Shepherd in an NDP news release on April 21, adding these issues should have been addressed before the app was launched.
“I am very concerned that Tyler Shandro signed a contract, launched the app, and has energetically promoted it using his position as Minister, all before these serious privacy issues were addressed. It is yet another damning indictment of his performance as Health Minister. He must resign.”