Friday, February 19, 2010

Privacy and Regulation

Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, recently gave a must-read speech on "The Future of Privacy Regulation" at the 11th Annual Privacy and Security Conference.

Very well stated is the daunting task that is facing regulators worldwide:

Of the many challenges we face, none is more dramatic than the impact of technology.
First and foremost, there is the sheer scope of the Internet, and the myriad ways in which we can now interact, shop, learn, and pretty much live online.
There’s also the staggering growth of computer capacity, which allows massive amounts of personal information to be collected, manipulated and shared.
Much of the content swirling through this Web 2.0 world is also generated by individuals, which poses new challenges for regulators.
From a privacy perspective, one consequence of these developments is that personal information can live on in cyberspace, pretty much in perpetuity. And so a typical data breach may no longer affect just a handful of people, but potentially hundreds of thousands of them.
Another consequence is that our lives have become open books. Even if we don’t advertise our whereabouts on Google Latitude, surveillance cameras and GPS-enabled cellphones are able to capture our movements.
Even if we don’t broadcast our latest purchases on, our online browsing habits are being quietly monitored and mined for their value to merchants and marketers.
And concepts of consumer knowledge – never mind consent – are become increasingly strained.

Of particular interest in the medical field is the simple assertion "[...] a typical data breach may no longer affect just a handful of people, but potentially hundreds of thousands of them."

If the risk of a data breach in a large centralized system is measured in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of confidential records, then one must ask, is the risk worth it?

One can not compare the lost of your famous "secret chicken recipe" due to a privacy breach on Facebook, to the damage associated with the lost of your most confidential information, which is currently known only by yourself and your healthcare provider.

When your medical records are located in the local office of a health professional, the risk of a data breach is similar whether a practitioner manages your records on paper or within the confines of a secure EMR platform.

However, it is clear now that any time a massive store of interesting data is centralized into a single location, is is much like painting concentric circles in bright red paint on the side of your web address. 

The risk to your specific privacy and, as a healthcare provider, the privacy of your patients is greatly affected by where your information is stored.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The OSCAR iPad Experience

Apple has just announced it's new iPad tablet and the technology community is reacting fast to this upcoming platform.

The Apple iPad via Apple

Windows based tablet devices have been around for ages, and now a new generation of devices are being reinvigorated from beneath the shadow of the Apple announcement.

HP Tablet via Gizmodo

The most promising of the new batch of iPad competitors are following a similar architectural strategy as Apple. Numerous vendors are showing tablet prototypes based on Google's Android mobile phone operating system.

Archos Android based tablet via Dance with Shadows

Furthermore, software houses are quickly moving to show that their wares will be compatible with the iPad. One very interesting announcement has come from Citrix, which has shown Windows 7 running via Citrix on top of the new iPad software simulator.

Of course it is too early to tell how well Windows or any other application will run on the iPad, as the devices just don't exist and outside of a few folks at Apple, very few people have actually had an opportunity to put one through its paces.

The iPad's operating system is based on the iPhone and it runs the same Safari browser as the iPhone. The iPad though, has a 9.7" screen which is capable of running at 1024 x 768 pixel resolution. (Only a few short years ago, this was the standard screen resolution of all computer monitors.)

To get a sense of what an image of that size looks like compared to your current monitor, click on and expand the below image which is a picture of the OSCAR Schedule, set to the 1024 x 768 dimensions. Now, from corner to corner, squish or stretch the image until you measure 9.7" and you'll have a rough sense of what size the iPad is, and what an unmodified version of OSCAR would feel like, running via the iPad Safari browser.

1024 x 768 pixel resolution image of the OSCAR Schedule (click to enlarge)

Many in the health care industry are very excited about the potential of using the iPad for not just unmodified access to existing applications, but also with purpose built, tablet centric tools.

We've long noted that doctors don't have technology adoption problems (as demonstrated by the wide use of iPhones and Blackberrys within the medical community), just issues with the value proposition of the existing medical IT technologies (as demonstrated by the weak market adoption rates in North America of the current batch of EMR/EHR platforms).

When it comes to health care, technology such as the iPad definitely seems, at least at this early stage, to have the potential to excite medical practitioners in a way that will deliver transformative change to the way one runs ones practice.

We don't have long to wait to see if this new technology will actually work.

In June, the first batch of OSCAR users will be firing up their freshly delivered iPads and pointing it at their OSCAR servers.

Minutes afterwards, the OSCAR iPad Experience will be christened.