NDP calling on UCP to ensure privacy of Albertan’s health info

by Morinville News Staff

Citing concerns from the Alberta Medical Association over the UCP’s announcement on the Babylon Health app, the NDP Official Opposition is calling on Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP to address privacy issues with the new telehealth tool.

The NDP charge that family doctors do not have access to the Babylon App and Alberta Medical Association President Christine Molnar has said Babylon was introduced without any consultation to the profession, and “results in fragmentation and disruption” of health care as Albertans see different Babylon physicians each time.

Alberta physicians have voiced serious concerns that the Babylon App is undermining family doctors who already offer a virtual service by phone. The UCP announced, however, Monday that new charge codes would cover virtual visits.

AMA concerns over Babylon pointed out by the NDP include concerns Babylon is not staffed by Albertans’ regular family physicians, doctors on Babylon may not be based in Alberta, or have access to the latest advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and patients cannot have consistent follow-ups with the same Babylon physician.

The Opposition says Babylon doctors have no access to the medical records of existing clinics nor do they contribute to those medical records, keeping their own records instead.

“The UCP should be investing in telemedicine support where Albertans can see and talk to their own trusted doctor,” said Alberta NDP Health Critic David Shepherd. “Instead, Jason Kenney and Tyler Shandro are pushing Albertans to a foreign-owned and privately-operated phone app that offers no consistency in care. Meanwhile, family doctors are begging the government to offer them the same options for offering virtual or telephone appointments so that they can continue to care for their patients while battling the coronavirus pandemic.”

The NDP charge that the terms and conditions of using Babylon have raised serious privacy concerns in that Babylon video recordings of patient visits is copied and stored on Babylon’s servers, and that the video may be shared with corporate partners and entities outside of Canada, including foreign governments.

“Even if Babylon conforms with all provincial and federal privacy laws, who on earth wants a video recording of their private medical visit shared with corporate partners and foreign governments? Why is the UCP allowing a private company to collect sensitive health information on Albertans?”

The NDP are asking the UCP to answer several questions about their decision to support Babylon:

• Do the terms and conditions of the Babylon App conform to privacy laws in Alberta, including Alberta’s Health Information Act?

• Why are Alberta doctors outside the ARP not permitted access or offered the ability to access the Babylon platform and serve patients? Wouldn’t this be an even bigger help in the pandemic?

• What process did Alberta Health use to evaluate the services offered by Babylon before it decided to proceed with offering the application? Was it an open RFP or a sole-source contract?

• Babylon states that doctors offering services on the application may or may not be located in Alberta. What assurance does the government have that these doctors will be up to date on the latest advice from Alberta Health Services, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health?

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