Canadian Lawyer

March 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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www.canadianlawyermag.com 37 Lawyers call for harmonized regulations across the country to simplify privacy and security laws for virtual healthcare providers, writes Lucy Saddleton Navigating the digital transformation in healthcare services FEATURE VIRTUAL HEALTHCARE THE DIGITAL healthcare industry has exploded during the past two years as the demand for online alternatives to in-person medical appointments has grown exponen- tially amid the pandemic. The acceleration of the digital transformation offers enor- mous advantages to medical professionals and patients alike. Still, there are many legal pitfalls for virtual healthcare companies to consider — not least regulatory compliance within a provincially regulated system. "Pre-COVID, telemedicine was gener- ally discouraged, but now everything has changed, so what we're seeing is a huge devel- opment in the delivery of medicine by way of video and telephone," says Sara Zborovski, partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP. There have been considerable changes to billing practices and billing codes associated with telemedicine since provincial payers began allowing doctors to bill for virtual appointments. Another trend is the acceptance by patients of these new ways of seeking health- care, together with rapidly evolving tech- nology aimed at facilitating the provision of medical services. Regulation is a significant consideration for healthcare companies in the pandemic landscape. Ensuring that a telemedicine platform is secure and that information is stored securely and transferred appropriately between different jurisdictions is critical for healthcare companies. "If you're a company that wants to operate across Canada or in multiple provinces, it's very challenging from a regulatory compli- ance perspective to make sure you're doing everything carefully," says Wendy Mee, partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. In addition to complying with laws and regulations in each province, virtual health- care providers must also adhere to policies issued by medical associations and provin- cial colleges of physicians. "With these technologies, doctors can go on vacation and see their patients from

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