The healthcare sector has faced questions about the sensitivity of data, the meaning of ‘informed’ consent, and confidentiality for much longer than formal data protection legislation has existed. Nevertheless, the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has raised awareness of such topics to the surface level of discussions within healthcare facilities and between healthcare professionals and patients.
On 11 December 2019, the VUB research chair on Data Protection on the Ground (coordinated by the research center imec-SMIT and the research group LSTS) organized a roundtable discussion between Data Protection Officers from the realm of hospitals and health insurance, specialized legal academics and legal professionals, and representatives of patient organizations in Belgium.
The discussion once more brought to the surface that the healthcare setting poses a specific challenge to obtaining consent from patients. The discussion also made very clear that explanations, while sometimes challenging to provide, are of the utmost importance to create and maintain trust. On the other hand, awareness of personal data protection should be raised throughout society and education, and enforcement plays a central role in achieving that ideal situation.