Bill Gates’ 2015 TED talk "The next outbreak? We're not ready" predicted the likely challenges in the event of a worldwide pandemic such as now. In contrast to the Ebola outbreak in 2013/14 which was limited almost entirely to three West African countries, he imagined a virus where those who do not know they are infected, feel well enough to travel on a plane or to a market. He concluded that even with the development of vaccines, global health systems would need to use technology such as mobile phones and satellite maps to ‘track and trace’ the public, in order to prevent another pandemic. His ideas seem prescient, given the success of many South East Asian countries in combatting COVID-19 using such means, as compared with the West where the use of technology has been less effective. The current pandemic and the response of those in life sciences who have helped develop a vaccine shows how this sector will continue to gain prominence as research into new variants of Covid and other viruses.

The legal issues for healthcare organisations using technology efforts to fight any future pandemic are likely to centre on information governance. As the app will process personal data, organisations need to ensure demonstrable compliance with GDPR. The harvested data will need to be kept confidential, safe and secure, limited to what is necessary and not kept longer than necessary. All organisations involved will need systems, policies, processes and training in place to ensure everyone who interacts with personal data, knows how it should be used.

Finally cyber risk is more prevalent than ever and healthcare organisations will need to check the adequacy of their cyber policies to ensure the adequacy of their cover and that their organisation is complying with the reuqirements of the policy.

Medical Malpractice Forward View 2021 

This article is part of Capsticks’ Medical Malpractice Forward View 2021. 

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Capsticks advise and support medical malpractice insurers and healthcare providers on all aspect of medical law including claims, inquests and regulatory proceedings. 

To discuss how any of these issues may affect your organisation, please get in touch with Majid Hassan, Andrew Latham, or Ed Mellor.