Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) on Monday launched its report titled ‘Data Privacy in Pakistan’s Healthcare Sector’ in Lahore.
During the launch event, DRF presented its findings to experts from the healthcare and research sectors. The report sheds light on how healthcare information, including patient and medical practitioner data, is collected within the existing structures and policies in the healthcare sector in Pakistan.
Zainab Durrani, Project Manager of DRF’s Data Privacy Portfolio, presented the research findings and emphasized the sensitivity of healthcare information. The research report analyzed healthcare data privacy practices in Pakistan through mapping, documenting, and surveying 85 medical practitioners and 64 individuals who had accessed medical healthcare in the country. Additionally, 17 in-depth interviews were conducted, including two public health officials.
DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad, highlighted the importance of healthcare data as an imperative component of personal data and a reflection of one’s personal self. However, the absence of a data protection law in the country leaves patients vulnerable. Dad urged the government to enact a data protection law based on a human rights approach.
The study found that 38.6% of respondents considered medical data equally as important as other kinds of data, while 31.8% said it was more important, and the remaining 29.5% considered it less sensitive than general data. While consent is considered the benchmark for data collection, only 40.9% of the respondents said that consent was obtained when data was collected, and 31.8% said it was not obtained. The remaining 27.3% said they were unsure. The study also found that 36.4% of patient data was recorded digitally, 27.3% was manually collected, and 27.3% said a hybrid approach was adopted.
Zainab Durrani, Program Manager and author of the research, noted the urgent need to focus on addressing the basics of medical ethics, such as the all-important requirement of confidentiality, which is not as commonplace in the healthcare industry in Pakistan as hoped.