How much is the health network data worth? In Canada, that’s a $200 billion question. The real answer risks increasing the appetite of governments, such as Quebec’s, which see enormous economic and logistical potential in these scraps of digital information.
The figure of 200 billion is not insignificant. This is at least what all the data produced each year in Canada could be worth, according to Statistics Canada. To be exact, the federal agency estimates, based on data dating back to 2018, that the value of all data creation-related economic activity in Canada at that time was between $157 and $218 billion.
The real value of this data is likely higher, notes Benoit Dostie, a professor in the Department of Applied Economics at HEC Montreal. “This calculation is based on the cost of producing the data,” he told the Must. In economics, the cost of production does not include all value as a product rarely sells below its cost of production. »
Mr. Dostie is also Academic Director of the Quebec Interuniversity Center for Social Statistics. As such, he will present, as part of the International Symposium on Digital Health Data to be held at the Grande Bibliothèque this Thursday and Friday in Montreal, the results of a survey he recently conducted on this thorny issue. economic value of personal data?
“It is actually very difficult to establish the precise value of digital data”, says the specialist, who adds that it can be calculated in at least four ways: by estimating its production cost, as Statistics Canada did; calculating their market value, which can be done from the balance sheets of companies that trade them en masse, such as certain American technological giants; adding up the income generated by their sale; or by extracting the value of applications and services that can be created from this data.
A very theoretical value
“Some calculations are more theoretical than others,” admits the professor. Yet sometimes it is these more abstract projections of entrepreneurial potential that make researchers, private companies and governments dream. The one of Francois Legault he is one of those dreamers. The Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, before adding the Energy portfolio to his duties, already saw, in the data accumulated almost everywhere in the government apparatus, a way for Quebec both to generate new income and stimulate the creation of new technologies.
For example, according to him, making healthcare sector data accessible would attract major pharmaceutical companies to Quebec and thus revive this once very important industry in the province. “The scientific future of medicine lies in understanding our genomes and our data, so we badly need that,” he said as early as the end of 2020.
The ultimate goal should be to improve the health of the general population
Since then, the government’s boots seem to have followed the minister’s chops. The Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) has given access to its databases to the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ). And the tax data that Revenu Québec has on Québec taxpayers will soon take the same direction, as will those of other public entities.
These agreements offer university researchers the opportunity to dig into the workings of Quebec’s public system. In health, they’ve already been able to do this for some time using Ontario data. Ontario already relies on Statistics Canada to manage its healthcare network data.
The data from Quebec that the researchers will then be able to work with could initially provide an illuminating portrait of how the health system works, believes Benoit Dostie.
As for whether they will attract multinational corporations to Quebec or spawn the new healthcare technology spin-off of Quebec, there is one big step that the professor does not take. “Instances where data of this type has been used successfully are mainly to improve system performance and patient experience,” he says. “The ultimate goal should be to improve the health of the general population” rather than income generation.
Matter of trust
According to Statistics Canada, the value of Canada’s data market has more than doubled since 2005. No doubt going digital will make data even more valuable in the coming years, which will make more and more private sector players salivate. .
However, there is a big risk associated with this enthusiasm: public trust. This confidence in the data market is also the theme of a conference attended by Benoit Dostie and other researchers this Thursday. In addition to their value, the place of technologies such asartificial intelligence in the handling of public data and the degree of ethics surrounding their use are also commonplace.
Because the challenge of health data is no longer knowing if they will be used to develop new technologies, but rather determining when they will, explains Lyse Langlois, director general of the International Observatory on the Social Impacts of AI and Digital (OBVIA), which oversees the event.
“Health data has long been a matter of the caregiver-patient relationship,” she says. The proliferation of platforms and players means that more and more private companies are interfering in this relationship. It seems important to identify perspectives and regain citizens’ trust. “And that is priceless.