The Health Law Group is pleased to welcome its newest partner — Daniel Girlando. Daniel is a graduate of McGill University and has a long history with our firm. He articled with BLG in 2010-2011 before joining the Health Law Group in 2011.
We asked Daniel a few questions about his practice and the world of health law and have shared his responses with you below. If you would like to speak to Daniel about any issues your organization is currently facing, he is always happy to assist at DGirlando@blg.com or 416.367.6516.
1. What has been the most significant change in health law during your years in practice?
I'll name two important changes. (1) Privacy. While privacy has always been a core concern of patients and health care providers, it has become an especially hot topic in recent years. The shift toward the use of electronic medical records and electronic health systems has brought a number of challenges, including privacy or security breach litigation. (2) Patient Safety. There has been a significant move by organizations to embrace the patient safety movement (e.g. conducting more quality reviews of patient safety events, moving towards greater transparency with patients and the adopting a just culture approach). This is particularly interesting because it comes at the same time as organizations are facing increasing medical malpractice litigation and scrutiny from the public.
2. You have recently been involved in a significant hospital privacy class action victory, what would you say is the most significant trend in privacy class actions at the moment?
In previous years, the trend was that a proposed class action would almost immediately follow any large breach of information, regardless of the nature of that information and whether it was considered private. In the majority of cases, the courts have certified these class actions, partly because the threshold for certification is low and the test is not meant to involve an analysis of the merits of the plaintiffs' allegations. The recent decision in Broutzas v. Rouge Valley Health System, however, tells us that the nature of the information accessed is important in determining whether there is "intrusion upon seclusion" or breach of privacy. In that case, highlighted in January's newsletter, the court found that not all breaches or wrongful uses of personal information — in this case, patients' name and contact information — amount to breaches of privacy that give rise to a right to sue for damages. The decision also highlights that one person may consider information as private and confidential while others would readily share that same information freely and broadly. That different individuals can have significantly varying views about privacy suggest that class actions may not always be the best vehicle to deal with large breaches of information.
3. What do you think health sector organizations should keep in mind for 2019?
The Ontario government's plan to reform the healthcare sector focuses on integration and harmonization of healthcare services on the one hand and quality of care on the other. There are opportunities for organizations to take a leadership role in the implementation of the reform and in designing health teams that will better address current challenges in patient care.
4. Do you foresee any "hot topics" in health law over the next five years?
Artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine has the potential to radically change how diagnosis are made, images interpreted, treatment recommended and patients monitored. AI brings a huge promise to improve the delivery of health care services and an important challenge in the next few years will be how to incorporate this technology in our systems. Because the technology is so new, health care administrators, clinicians and health lawyers will have to grapple with the novel ethical and legal questions and challenges.
5. And just for fun: what is your favourite book you've read in the past year?
André Aciman's Enigma Variations. I loved Call Me by Your Name, both the book and the movie, so I took Aciman's new novel with me on vacation last summer. Enigma Variations tells the story of formative, all-consuming and yet passing romances. It's one of those books you cannot put down once you've started reading it!