With the greater dependency on technology come concerns and legalities of digital privacy. On an episode of “Let’s talk about this SHifT”, Harry Matheis from Matheis Financial Group, spoke about the digital charter and its implications in employee group benefit plans, the messaging and methods benefit providers are using for data collection and use, as well as the implications of “implied consent”. 

As he points out in the Benefits and Pension Monitor article “Healthcare in the Digital Age”, there seems to be some inconsistency between provincial regulations across the country involving e-prescribing, health-related information, and telemedicine. This may be exacerbated by those accessing care in one province, from a location in another. “If the patient and provider are located in different provinces, the laws and other requirements of both jurisdictions must be considered,” he wrote.

Matheis reminds employers and employees alike that the fair information principals set out by PIPEDA apply even in the benefit sector. Items like:

  •  Accountability for information under an organization’s control
  • The purpose for the collection
  •  Knowledge and consent from the individual
  •  Limited use, disclosure and retention unless otherwise required by law
  •  Retained only as long as required
  •   Accuracy must be maintained and kept up to date
  •  Safeguards for security must in place relative to the sensitivity of the information

Legislation on privacy is there for a reason and important to remember as the virtual healthcare service model takes hold as the norm rather than the exception. Even benefit programs offer support virtual access for most options available on a benefit program, including, but not limited to employee assistance, lifestyle, and wellbeing. In fact, benefit providers have become very savvy about the collection of information and using to then offer additional services which may be in line with, but separate from the plan parameters at an additional cost.

This is where Harry Matheis stresses the “buyer beware” especially when it comes to plan amendments. Some amendments, if not read and simply signed, may “include broad-based, open-ended language requiring the plan sponsor employers to provide accurate information on plan members for the discharge of regular plan services, yet also for marketing products and services while sharing this information.” Always, of course, subject to change.

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