I’m Kate Dewhirst.

I’m a lawyer who writes about legal issues affecting healthcare in Canada

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Digital hygiene saves lives! New IPC guidelines

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In healthcare we often repeat that “hand hygiene saves lives” – well so too does digital hygiene.

What is digital hygiene?

Digital hygiene is a term of art used in the technology and cyber security field to describe positive practices to protect digital information from loss, theft, and unauthorized use, disclosure, modification or destruction.

How does digital hygiene save lives?

If and when a healthcare organization is hit by ransomware, cyber attack, or physical hacker and their electronic information systems are compromised, the organization may have to stop providing health services for a period of time.  This can be devastating for emergency health services and negatively impact elective health procedures. Having no access to health records or only access to incorrect information can compromise health services.

Good digital hygiene includes recommendations to:

  • Use different passwords personally and professionally
  • Make back-up copies of files
  • Keep your operating system up-to-date
  • Avoid inserting unknown mobile devices into networked computers (like unknown USB keys)
  • Standardize email subject lines and signatures
  • Manage and protect passwords

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) has just contributed new guidelines to the digital hygiene conversation, “Protect Against Phishing“.  These guidelines released today address how to:

  1. recognize a phishing message
  2. protect against phishing attacks
  3. respond to a cyber attack

According to TechTarget Search Security: “Phishing is a form of fraud in which an attacker masquerades as a reputable entity or person in email or other communication channels. The attacker uses phishing emails to distribute malicious links or attachments that can perform a variety of functions, including the extraction of login credentials or account information from victims.”

Reviewing the IPC’s new guidelines is essential to the role of all Privacy Officers in healthcare.

Next Steps:

There are 4 ways to work with me when you are ready:

  1. Attend one of my free Ask Me Anything about Health Privacy webinars – the first Wednesday of every month at 10am EDT/EST
  2. Join me for my next Health Privacy Officer training and become even more confident in your role.
  3. Join me for my next Advanced Privacy Officer training – for practicing your skills.
  4. Invite me to do your team privacy training or assist you with privacy policies or privacy breach management

Want to read about PHIPA privacy decisions of the IPC? Click here to get my free up-to-date Summary of all the IPC’s PHIPA Decisions.


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Some of Kate’s recent and upcoming events

Team Privacy Training Events

September 17, September 24, October 16, October 24 and November 21

For Primary Care clinics, Children’s Aid and FHTs

Kate trains health professionals from many more primary care organizations how being privacy-respectful can improve therapeutic relationships. more details...

Speaking event

October 23, 2019

Osgoode Professional Development – Mental health Certificate

Kate joins the faculty for this training event. More details...

Primary care webinars: Contracts & Communications

September 5 and October 3, 2019, 12 noon

Part of Kate’s monthly webinar series.

Our September webinar is about understanding contracts you may be asked to sign, and in Octber our title is Managing incapacity in the workplace.

Full details of the 2019 webinar series and registration here.

Privacy Officer training

November 5, 11, 18, 25 & December 2, 2019

Kate is the program chair for the Osgoode Certificate in Privacy in Healthcare.

This program explores the range of privacy interests that must be protected in the day-to-day treatment of patients, the development of information systems and the creation of institutional policies.More details ...

Advanced Privacy Officer training

December 10, 2019

For experienced Privacy Officers within healthcare organisations.

This one day training course focuses on how to handle difficult privacy situations using real-life (but anonymized) case studies and role-play. Full details and registration here...

Free healthcare privacy webinar - ask me anything!

August 7 and September 4, 2019, 10-11am EST

Free webinars - advance registration needed

Whether you're an experience privacy officer or new in the field, pick Kate’s brain for free for an hour, in this live webinar. No charge, but you’ll need to register in advance.

Kate Dewhirst Health Law

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My mission is bringing the law to life. I make legal theory understandable, accessible and fun! I’m available and love to work for all organizations in the healthcare sector across Ontario and beyond.

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