Health Quality Ontario: Access Denied

Ontario’s Open Data Directive is intended to maximize access to government data by requiring all data to be made public, unless it is exempt for legal, privacy, security, confidentiality or commercially-sensitive reasons.

From time to time, I’ve collaborated with officials in Ontario’s Treasury Board Secretariat, (e.g. Visualizing the Ontario Government’s Open Data Initiative). I’ve also expressed concern about the Government’s slooooooooow progress (e.g. Is the Ontario Government’s Open Data Initiative Getting Bogged Down?).

I’ll soon publish one of those “So, what’s happening one year later?” updates. Meanwhile, I thought the contribution (or lack thereof) of Health Quality Ontario to the Open Data Initiative was noteworthy.

Health Quality Ontario received nearly $50M in operating funds from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care in 2017/18 for advising the province on health care quality. Like most “Quality Assuring” functionaries, Health Quality Ontario speaks quite readily about others’ performance, but less readily about its own.

A case in point: Ontario’s Open Data Directory references 17 datasets pertaining to Health Quality Ontario – none of which is currently open to the public.Indeed, while one dataset (Health Quality Ontario (HQO) corporate performance data) is waiting to be opened (since August 2018), access to 16 datasets (94%) pertaining to the operation of Health Quality Ontario is closed to the public.

I’m particularly interested in hearing more about why the public can’t access at least half of these datasets (the entirety of the Government’s justification for denying access is given in italics):

  1. Health Quality Ontario (HQO) board evaluation survey results. Data relating to how HQO board meetings are conducted. Includes satisfaction with content, logistics, presentation and also areas for improvement. Security. Release of this information could have security implications.
  2. Health Quality Ontario survey results. Measuring customer satisfaction, employee engagement, feedback, etc. Electronic questionnaires created using various web-based data collection tools. The questionnaire is then sent to various audiences depending on the feedback Health Quality Ontario would like to receive about communications-specific events and initiatives. The data is used to gain a better understanding of the characteristics, behaviour or opinions of a group. Recipients include internal as well as external stakeholders, staff and conference attendees. Privacy. Rationale not to release: The information that is gathered contains personal information.
  3. Tendered purchases by Health Quality Ontario. This dataset contains information about procurement contracts. A dataset of successful vendors which resulted in a signed contract with accompanying amounts detailed in the contract with Health Quality Ontario. Legal and contractual obligations. Contains confidential contractual data.
  4. Health Quality Ontario (HQO) internet usage. Measures the amount of bandwidth used by HQO. Vendor-provided statements about bandwidth usage. Security. Release of this information could have security implications.
  5. Health Quality Ontario (HQO) Information Technology (IT) support. IT data relating to HQO’s information technology help desk. Includes number of enquiries and services requested. Security. Release of this information could have security implications.
  6. Health Quality Ontario newsletter metrics. Data that relates to the Health Quality Ontario newsletter. This dataset captures total times the Health Quality Ontario newsletter was open, the total number of unique opens, the number of times a link to Health Quality Ontario content was clicked and the number of shares of content via social media or email. Security. Release of this information could have security implications.
  7. Health Quality Ontario website analytics. Data relating to Health Quality Ontario’s website. This data set captures number of visitors, number of unique visitors, number of links clicked and average time spent on our website. Commercial sensitivity. Data integrity. The quality of the website data is currently being reviewed and new metrics are being developed that will be more informative and reliable.
  8. Health Quality Ontario media stories. Data relating to a particular outreach. Commercial sensitivity. Risk of relationships with partners. Dataset is used only for internal decision making purposes.
  9. Health Quality Ontario social media metrics. Data that captures Health Quality Ontario outreach with regards to social media. This dataset captures data on number of people who see Health Quality Ontario (HQO) content, the number of times people saw particular content, the number of unique tweets, the number of HQO tweets that were retweeted, and the number of times a link to HQO content was clicked. Commercial sensitivity. Data integrity. The quality of the website data is currently being reviewed and new metrics are being developed that will be more informative and reliable.

These examples beg the question: How can we assure the quality of the “quality assurers”? – when the public is cut-off from accessing basic information about their operation and performance.


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