Open Health, Privacy And The Digital Divide

Nick Evans and Adam Henschke | The Conversation | October 30, 2012

Open health refers to a set of developing information technologies that make it easier for patients, professionals and administrators to access health-care information or make it anonymous and open to the public. This is done by integrating existing health-care records and data. It is hoped the result will be more health information for more people to access more easily.

Open health requires online access. It’s easy to think of this as a background issue because the national broadband network is due to roll out in Australia over the next few years. But the so-called digital divide is a real concern in Australia and around the world. What’s more, the world isn’t just divided between those who have internet access and those who don’t. We also need to consider the staggering differences between the quality of access, individual internet literacy, and how these variables can be leveraged to create good outcomes.

Although the digital divide is closing, a large number of vulnerable individuals still don’t have basic internet access. And technological literacy is a necessary part of using open health services. Open health will hold data on vulnerable populations that those populations may not be able to use through lack of access. The elderly, for instance, are major users of health-care services so we need to ensure that they have the technological access and the capacity to engage with open health...