“There are vast amounts of health care data which are of very high value for areas including health research to find cures for diseases, for public health research that deals with outbreak detection, such as outbreaks of food borne illnesses and other preventative interventions such as cancer screening,” says Dr. Khaled El Emam, founder and CEO of Ottawa-based startup Privacy Analytics, which protects the privacy of personal data used for analysis and research in the health care industry.
But accessing that data is often a challenge because of privacy concerns. Data breaches of an individual’s personal information can cost a company millions in lawsuits and damages to its reputation, share price, and more. As a result, the database security market is expected to grow to $1.2 billion in 2014, according to industry analyst group Forrester Research.
Privacy Analytics today closed a venture capital investment from the BDC IT Venture Fund and Capital Angel Network to increase sales and marketing efforts to compete in the fast-growing database security market where the company is helping healthcare providers, health IT developers, and insurance companies to unlock health data that can be used and disclosed without the need for patient authorization. The amount raised was not disclosed.
“We are in a unique position to give our clients the ability to cost-effectively execute big data analytics on their databases, share that data with the confidence that personal privacy is respected, and still provide the highest quality data needed by complex business intelligence tools,” explains Dr. El Emam. “In effect, we have democratized valuable customer or patient data for many other uses.”
Privacy Analytics, which was recently chosen by tech guru Tim O’Reilly as the winner at NYC Data Week’s Startup Conference last month, works with research organizations, pharmaceutical, healthcare and insurance providers throughout North America. The company’s software has been used to remove identifying information from 100 million records to date.
Canada’s leading health services research institute, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, recently used the Privacy Analytics product PARAT (The Privacy Analytics Risk Assessment Tool) to link Ontario’s rich cancer data resources and to provide the de-identified data directly to health services researchers. According to El Emam, “they have been using this product for a couple of years now. By using PARAT they have streamlined the costly and complicated process of data access for cancer researchers in Ontario.”
The Privacy Analytics de-identification methodology involves a “risk-based approach that is founded on Canadian and International standards,” says Dr. El Emam.
We’ll be watching this industry’s growth as more and more big data companies emerge in Canada.