01 September 2023, by Emily Proctor

A coalition of psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and patients are taking the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa) to court after accusing the organisation of implementing new rules in 2022 that equate to “non-targeted surveillance” of patients. 

Healthcare coalition argues data collection amounts to “surveillance”

The GGZ coalition, which has formed specifically to contest the new regulations created in 2022, is made up of many Dutch psychiatrists, psychologists and patients  The coalition argues that highly sensitive data about patients’ addictions, sexual problems, self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts should not be shared, even though authorities maintain that the data is not directly traceable to the original patients.

Opponents of the new regulations say that even though the data is pseudonymised – using placeholder values or artificial names instead of actual patient names – the data could be traced back to patients if linked to other health databases. The health authorities have stated that they will not link the sensitive dataset to other databases, but GGZ members remain unconvinced. 

Now, the coalition wants to stop the database from being shared with the health authorities. “Our professional secrecy is broken”,” psychiatrist Cobie Groenendijk told Dutch broadcaster NOS

Healthcare authorities in the Netherlands share data under new rules

The regulations implemented last year require healthcare supervisors to share data, collecting information from around 800.000 patients in mental health care. The health authorities deem this data collection as necessary to train an algorithm to help the healthcare system better predict demand for mental health services. 

Since the start of the data collection, the coalition against the regulation has decided to take legal action against the NZa. The summons argues that the database is a form of “non-targeted surveillance” of citizens by the government and that patients could fall victim to data leaks or even discrimination due to data-sharing. The case is due in court in late September 2023.

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