Some B.C. residents feel left behind with app-only access to personal health records

Click to play video: 'B.C. residents frustrated with app-only access to personal health data' B.C. residents frustrated with app-only access to personal health data
As we emerge from the pandemic, proof of immunization is increasingly becoming essential for travel in and out of the country. But in the digital age, some people are feeling excluded from B.C.'s one-stop source for health records. Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa has more on the problem and why the province is now working to improve access – Aug 12, 2021

Some seniors say B.C.’s latest initiative on personal health records is leaving them behind.

Health Gateway is a single place for residents to access their records, COVID-19 test results, and immunization records.

However, to access it, you must download the BC Service Card mobile app.

“Someone is making assumptions that for some reason, mobile apps are the answer to everything,” said Don Robinson.

Robinson, who is a senior and visually impaired, said he’s managed to enter the digital age successfully, but is perplexed as to why a mobile app is needed to access his personal health records.

Click to play video: 'Made in B.C. app for contact tracing' Made in B.C. app for contact tracing
Made in B.C. app for contact tracing – Jun 14, 2020

The province has said that a person can access Health Gateway through their mobile device or through a desktop computer that’s paired with their mobile device.

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But Robinson said none of the iOS devices he owns will run the app because the operating systems are too old.

“I think they should just consult with people more than they do. I think there’s too much assuming and making assumptions that don’t stand up to scrutiny. If they asked the right people, the right people would tell them where they are going off track,” he said.

Read more: ‘I just feel it’s wrong’: B.C. couple questions fee to access own medical records

In response to a request for comment, the Ministry of Health told Consumer Matters it is aware that people are having trouble accessing Health Gateway through the BC Services Card app.

“We’re working to improve the way that people can easily obtain their COVID immunization records and there will be more information on what this will look like in the near future,” the ministry said.

The province has also said the app is needed because it can require a robust identity verification process for privacy reasons and avoid security risks around sensitive and personal information.

Read more: ‘It just makes me sick’: B.C. patient receives someone else’s medical records

Still, one cybersecurity expert said that while having extra layers of security is encouraging, the fact that Health Gateway is not accessible to everyone is a concern.

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“I’m happy the province has made this app available for those that can use it — it works great,” said Chester Wisniewski, a cybersecurity specialist at Sophos.

“The question is why are there no alternatives available for people who are unable to access it? They certainly could have done better.”

When it comes to having a record of COVID-19 vaccinations, the province has said that if a person doesn’t have access to Health Gateway, they may obtain a paper copy or a vaccination card that is given to them when they are vaccinated.

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