An individual’s health information is among their most private, and access to it should always be safe and secure. As our world becomes increasingly digitized and connected, the traditional structure of the healthcare sector and the storage of information remains archaic. While financial institutions and other industries have enabled digital access to information without the need to go to a physical location, most patients are still required to see a doctor or access their records in person.

Compounding this inconvenience, consumers are then forced to wait in long lines, present multiple pieces of ID and answer security questions which often reveal more personal information, just to get access to the services and products they need. It’s time for new technologies to change this.

The healthcare sector is moving at a slower pace than the expectations of patients. A 2019 report from the Canadian Medical Association stated 77 per cent of Canadians expect to be able to access and contribute to their complete medical history, and be able to share it with their doctor, in the next 10 years. Additionally, 83 per cent of respondents believe this will improve their lives.[1]

One major step forward in improving the lives of patients is closing the online trust gap, as both doctors and patients need to know that all identities have been verified and they are speaking with the appropriate person. Both parties want to know who is on the other end of the Internet without having to have Ph.D. in security, or the burden of ongoing vigilance and worry about information safety.

Improving access to healthcare would also be financially beneficial. A 2019 Journal of Medical Online Research found that if personal health records were mplemented with more integrated virtual care services, the value generated from populations with chronic illnesses—such as severe and persistent mental illness and diabetes—could amount to between $800 million and $1 billion per year across Canadian health systems.[2]

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, failures in the healthcare system are being exposed and the need for digital access to health records are ever present. Especially in Ontario, the provincial government has recognized the need to break down silos and repair the fragmented data in the sector, signaled by the appointment of former Liberal MP Jane Philpott to lead the pandemic data effort. Of note, having ‘touch-free’ identity is going be important in healthcare and in the rest of the economy too. The new normal is  everyone is going to be wary of handling and passing documents between people.

While multiple levels of public and private sector organizations are helping move this improved access to healthcare forward, patients also need to play an active role to make their expectations about the future a reality.

That’s where Verified.Me comes in.

The Verified.Me service was developed in cooperation with seven of Canada’s major financial institutions – BMO, CIBC, Desjardins, National Bank of Canada, RBC, Scotiabank and TD. It helps consumers verify their identities so they can get things in a timely fashion online, in person and over the phone. It is a privacy-enhanced service that is built on consent; consumers always stay in control by choosing when to share their information and with whom, reducing unnecessary oversharing of personal information in order to access the services they want.

Verified.Me connects trusted sources that consumers already use to help verify their identities, like a financial institution, with organizations where accessing services requires a high level of identity assurance before displaying personal information, like a healthcare provider. It operates without sharing specifics on where, why or with whom customers are using personal information.

With Verified.Me, it’s easier for patients to verify their identities and get safe and convenient access to their personal health information without having to visit a clinic in-person or wait for their doctors to call with received results. Patients also benefit from knowing that they are using a service that is built using bank-grade security, without user tracking, that asks for their explicit consent to share at each step. By joining the Verified.Me network, our partners Sun Life Financial, North Shore and Dynacare have made it easier for patients to securely confirm their identity when accessing personal health information.

Tools like this are especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. A secure online service like Verified.Me ensures patients with pre-existing medical conditions, who needed to visit a healthcare professional before the pandemic, can still receive care for those ailments in a safe way. With only essential services open, consumers shouldn’t have to wait in long lines and potentially expose themselves to the virus when there are means to attain the desired information online. Afterall, if it’s the patient’s health information, shouldn’t they own it?

Learn more about the intersection of digital health and identity as well as the latest trends at IdentityNORTH, where we’ll be participating in The Digital Transformation of Healthcare panel discussion. Join us on Thursday, June 18 afternoon to learn more! https://www.identitynorth.ca/events/identitynorth2020/

[1] https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/Media-Releases/The-Future-of-Connected-Healthcare-e.pdf

[2] https://www.jmir.org/2019/6/e12277/