Digital wave is just beginning in B.C.

Protecting B.C.'s medical system and putting many routine government services online is the next step for driver's licences

B.C. driver's licences will soon be paired with a password to provide access to our famously 'free' health care system.

VICTORIA – Have you got one of the new B.C. driver’s licences yet?

By now most drivers have the one with the unsmiling black and white mug shot, to conform to passport standards so it could be used for border identification with the magnetic swipe strip on the back.

About one million of us now have the newest version, with a credit-card style digital chip that proves your residence and eligibility for our famously “free” medical care.

The motor vehicle office started issuing them about a year ago, as five-year licences expire. They replace the old “CareCard” that has no expiry date. Over the years there were more than nine million CareCards issued, twice the population of B.C., as people held onto their access to our defenseless, overworked medical system from wherever they moved to.

Positive identification is only the start for this card. Each will be assigned a password that gives access to online medical records, so when patients show up at an ER, their eligibility is confirmed and any previous conditions or medications are accurately matched. (Note that medical information is not stored on the card, just an access code that goes with the password.)

Patients will be able to call up their own files at home, book medical appointments and even renew prescriptions, which is where the efficiency comes in. In-person visits for routine prescription renewals are a cash cow for today’s doctors, generating guaranteed billings but often little or no health benefit.

Most people will still think of it as a driver’s licence, but it’s intended as an all-purpose government ID. If you don’t drive, you are spared the $75 licence renewal fee, and within a couple of years the cards will start providing online access to a wide range of government services.

Andrew Wilkinson, minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services, says a public consultation has shown most people are comfortable using a system they already trust for their banking.

By the end of 2015, Wilkinson says about two million people will have the new cards, roughly half of B.C.’s population. Application forms converted to online access will include student loans, birth, death and marriage certificates, voter registration and even criminal record checks.

All this will be costly to set up, but the savings from having customers do their own data entry are well known, as any banker or supermarket owner can tell you.

“You can understand that if you’re in the vital statistics office and this can all be done from places like Telegraph Creek and Horsefly remotely, that actually saves them a lot of money,” Wilkinson said. “There will be conversion of existing services where you have to go into an office and wait around and fill out forms. Those will be converted to online services.”

It also means a decline in the number of government office jobs, and the potential for further outsourcing of services, as we have seen with Medical Services Plan administration and the back-office functions of BC Hydro.

Some older readers won’t be thrilled to hear about this. They don’t want a “smart phone,” just a phone. But they will also see their great-grandchildren becoming adept with tablet computers before they can even speak. Seniors will get the hang of it pretty quickly, and their lives will become easier.

• A correction to last week’s column on the Agricultural Land Commission. I erroneously said regional panel members were appointed from outside the region. They are local residents, and the new legislation formalizes a cabinet appointment process for them.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.

Follow me on Twitter


Just Posted

Hope mothers work together to improve access, connections for autistic children

Families with autistic children in rural areas have difficulty accessing resources, each other

UPDATE: Man with gunshot wound drives into ditch on Chilliwack River Road

Serious crimes investigators believe early morning shooting to be targeted

No red flags in expense audit, says former Fraser Health boss who fired Murray

Wynne Powell said report showed need for tighter rules, but didn’t suggest abuse of expense claims

WATCH: Rally at MP’s office Friday in Chilliwack to stop KM pipeline

Water samples from Chilliwack rivers were delivered to MP Strahl’s office in a symbolic gesture

Editor’s view: A Hopeful start to the community’s first 10 km run

Good mix of pomp and circumstance, variable terrain and silliness at Sunday’s run

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

B.C. pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions from around B.C. for National Puppy Day 2018

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

B.C. officials failed to tell Kiwis Fraser Health CEO had been fired in 2014

New Zealand spending scandal exposes Dr. Nigel Murray 2014 exit from B.C. job

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

Most Read