Alberta privacy commissioner to investigate Telus virtual health-care app – Calgary Herald


Alberta government announced a partnership with Telus to introduce the Babylon app for Albertans to access health-care support from their homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The introduction of the app contributed to ongoing tensions between the United Conservative government and Alberta physicians, who raised concerns that the app could undermine doctors’ practices and introduce privacy concerns.

About a week after announcing the partnership, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said doctors would be able to bill the province for virtual visits as if they were in-person appointments.

Steve Buick, press secretary to Shandro, said the province’s relationship to the app is limited to an alternative relationship plan with Telus Health. He said the app has been in use in British Columbia for more than a year and in the United Kingdom before that, reiterating that its use is optional.

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“We believe that Albertans appreciate options in their health-care delivery, including embracing technology,” Buick said.

“Of course, we fully expect Telus Health and physicians to comply with all applicable laws and regulations and work with the Information and Privacy Commissioner to address any concerns.”

NDP health critic David Shepherd, who called for a privacy investigation into Babylon in March, said he was pleased to see one started.

“I welcome the investigation. It’s good to see that the commissioner is indeed doing good work and good diligence on the part of the people of Alberta,” he said. “Albertans have a right to know that anything that’s going to be using their health information and their private information has received a proper review.”

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Shepherd added that he was concerned Shandro announced a partnership with the app before privacy concerns were addressed.

Babylon hosts a privacy policy on its website.

“When you use Babylon, you give us access to your data,” the policy says, noting that demographic and medical information are stored on secure servers and appointments are recorded so that users can rewatch them.

Telus spokeswoman Jill Yetman told Postmedia the company is confident privacy requirements are being met.

“Protecting patient data is the cornerstone of our health-care business,” Yetman said.

“Both Telus and Babylon welcome the opportunity to clarify the strength of our privacy program for Babylon by Telus Health, and look forward to working collaboratively with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta to supply the additional information requested to showcase that we are meeting or exceeding the privacy requirements.”

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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