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Digital Rights Foundation launches Report on Data Privacy in Pakistan’s Healthcare Sector


Lahore: Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) launched its report ‘Data Privacy in Pakistan’s Healthcare Sector
on Monday, the 27th of February, 2023, at the Parklane Hotel in Lahore. At the launch, DRF shared its
findings with experts from the healthcare and research sectors, primarily shedding light on how
healthcare information, consisting of patient and medical practitioners data, is collected within the
existing structures and policies in the healthcare sector in Pakistan.
The findings of the research were presented by Zainab Durrani, Project Manager of DRF’s Data Privacy
Portfolio. She welcomed the audience and emphasized the importance of healthcare information given
its sensitive nature. The research maps, documents, and analyzes healthcare data privacy practices in
Pakistan. The research report consisted survey responses from 85 medical practitioners and 64 individuals
who had accessed medical healthcare in the country. Furthermore, 17 in-depth interviews were
conducted, including two public health officials. DRF’s Executive Director, Nighat Dad noted that
‘Healthcare data is an imperative component of personal data and a reflection of one’s personal self
however, the absence of a data protection law in the country leaves us all vulnerable, particularly
patients. We urge the government to enact a data protection law founded on a human rights approach.’
The study finds that most people attach a great degree of importance to medical data–38.6% of
respondents said they considered it equally as important as other kinds of data, while 31.8% said it was
more important and the remaining 29.5% considered it less sensitive than general data. Moreover, while
consent is considered the benchmark for data collection, only 40.9% of the respondents said consent
was obtained when data was collected and 31.8% said not obtained, and the remaining 27.3% said they
were unsure. The study finds that 36.4% of patient data was recorded digitally, 27.3% was manually
collected, and 27.3% said a hybrid approach was adopted. Zainab Durrani, Program Manager and author
of the research notes, ‘There is an urgent need to focus our energies on addressing the basics of medical
ethics such as the all-important requirement of confidentiality, which is not as commonplace in the
healthcare industry in Pakistan as we would have hoped.’
Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based NGO in Pakistan. Founded in 2012, DRF focuses
on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works
on issues of online speech, data protection, and online violence against women.
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