Paralegal licensing reform, data virtualization, and patient safety: What’s new in Ascend Magazine

Could the Law Society of Ontario’s proposed family services license for paralegals increase access to justice in the province? How can regulators in healthcare work to ensure patient safety? We look at this and more in our latest Ascend Monthly Digest.

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Regulators are united in their endeavor to serve the public interest. But with a rapidly changing technological landscape and an unpredictable world order still suffering through a pandemic, different regulators find themselves making difficult decisions to strengthen their workforces and better protect citizens. This often requires a delicate balance between thoroughly vetting applicants and removing unnecessary barriers to licensure. So how can government leaders tackle their important work more efficiently?

Ascend Magazine exists to shed light on these topics and others within the fields of government regulation and professional licensure. In our latest monthly content roundup, we touch on topics like criticisms of slow application processing times, family law licensing for paralegals, patient safety in the healthcare industry, and more.

Could a family services license for paralegals increase access to justice?

Legal services in family law can be difficult to access in Ontario – particularly for individuals with limited financial resources – which has left a high number of litigants unrepresented in court. The province remains the only one in Canada to regulate the paralegal profession, a move it made in 2007 to increase access to legal services for Ontarians. But paralegals aren’t currently allowed to provide services in family law, leading many to ask: could a new family services license for paralegals make access to justice easier within this field?

Proponents say yes – access to justice is a troubling problem that can be alleviated by bolstering the legal workforce with additional family legal services providers. Critics argue that paralegals cannot adequately provide family services without traditional legal training, even with a specialized license. Either way, the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), which has been pursuing this endeavor since 2018, is moving forward with the license.

Ariel Visconti examines the debate around this new proposal, and Ontario’s regulation of paralegals in general, in one of our latest Ascend articles.

Safe licensing takes time

Regulators often face criticism from the public, licensees, and the media for being too slow in their processing of license applications, especially in situations where labor shortages are challenging a professional industry. But, as regulatory expert Dr. Sheila Marchant-Short explains in her recent piece, safe licensing that properly protects the public interest can take time.

According to Marchant-Short, critics of slow regulatory processes can fail to account for external factors that are not under the regulator’s control – factors like communication with educational institutions, criminal background checks, verifications, and others – that can slow down the licensing process but ensure better public protection from malpractice. Read more about what goes on behind the scenes to make sure applicants are qualified to practice in our latest Ascend Voices article.

Data virtualization in regulation: Use cases and practical considerations

Like it or not, data virtualization is the new normal in both the public and private sectors. Virtualization can reduce hardware storage use by as much as 80%, consolidate and simplify information from multiple datasets, and facilitate easy-to-understand data analytics reports for administrative boards. In a world that demands instant access to information, data virtualization answers the call.

This technology can save regulators and their affiliates precious time and resources in the long run – but only if it’s implemented strategically by specialized sub-departments that can, for example, closely analyze different vendors to make critical decisions in the virtualization process. Read more about use cases and practical considerations for virtualizing data in the regulatory field in our latest Ascend article.

Dr. Marie Bismark talks patient safety, pandemic: Ascend Radio

In the healthcare system, fewer than 5% of practitioners account for nearly 50% of complaints to regulators. So how can government officials work with such a small number of delinquent practitioners to reform their professional conduct (if possible) and better ensure patient safety for all? Dr. Marie Bismark shares her thoughts on the matter – and much more – in our latest Ascend Radio podcast with host Paul Leavoy.

Dr. Bismark is a doctor, lawyer, academic, and researcher, but perhaps above all else, she is a passionate advocate for patient safety in the healthcare system. She currently leads the Law and Public Health unit at the Centre for Health Policy at Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health. In addition to working as a doctor at multiple New Zealand hospitals, Dr. Bismark has also provided her expertise to healthcare regulators in the country, such as the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Her wide-ranging conversation with Leavoy touches on topics like mandatory ethics courses for professionals who receive complaints, common features of sexual misconduct complaints, and more. You can listen to the episode on Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Ascend Magazine’s RSS feed. If you want to learn more about Dr. Bismark and the remarkable work she is doing, you can:

In case you missed it…

Those new to Ascend Magazine will definitely want to check out these essential reads: 

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