New tool for protecting the privacy of health research participants

OTTAWA, Jan. 27 /CNW/ - In recognition of Data Privacy Day 2011, the Electronic Health Information Laboratory is making a new software tool freely available to the medical research community to protect personal privacy while helping to advance medical research.

The REB Wizard will be made available to healthcare researchers and Canada's research ethics boards, the oversight bodies entrusted with reviewing investigative proposals and tracking research projects to ensure compliance with best ethical practices.

This tool will allow the research ethics boards at many of Canada's research hospitals and medical universities to assess and manage the risks that come with handling personal health information.

"This software will allow data to be used for research purposes while ensuring that the privacy of patients is protected," says Dr. El Emam, the Canada Research Chair in Electronic Health Information at the University of Ottawa and the leader of the lab which produced the tool.

The REB Wizard is a creation of the multi-disciplinary team of the Electronic Health Information Laboratory (EHIL). Led by Dr. El Emam, the EHIL team is composed of computer scientists, software engineers, mathematicians, statisticians and privacy experts. The lab's work is internationally recognized for conducting research on risk assessment methods for handling health data.

"Reducing the decision-making time for research ethics boards is critical," adds Dr. El Emam, emphasizing that the time to approve research proposals can be reduced from months down to weeks or even a few days when the REB Wizard software is used.

The initiative is in partnership with Privacy Analytics Inc., the software company founded in 2007 by Dr. El Emam to commercialize his leading edge work on privacy risk assessment and de-identification technologies. The REB Wizard is an offshoot of Privacy Analytics' Risk Assessment Tool (PARAT), the only commercially available de-identification tool on the market. Custodians of personally identifiable information, including hospitals, medical registries and public health programs in Canada and the US use the patent-pending technology to maximize the utility of research data while defending against re-identification attacks and avoid costly breaches.

SOURCE Privacy Analytics Inc.

For further information:

For more information on the REB Wizard and to interview Dr. El Emam, please contact:Jay Innes, Privacy Analytics, jinnes@privacyanalytics.ca, 613.293.9833

To access the REB Wizard visit: http://www.ehealthinformation.ca/rebwizard/ca

Information on the Electronic Health Information Laboratory can be found at http://www.ehealthinformation.ca/index.asp

Privacy Analytics Inc.: http://www.privacyanalytics.ca/index.asp

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Privacy Analytics Inc.

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