New uses for driver’s licence ahead

Cards and passwords may be used to make medical appointments and apply for student loans or register to vote

Technology

With one million of its new high-tech drivers’ licences in use, the B.C. government is preparing to use them for access to medical records, applying for student loans and a range of other uses.

The new driver’s licence was introduced a year ago, with a digital chip that replaces the existing medical CareCard system, which had run out of control. The health ministry estimated that there were more than nine million CareCards in circulation, about twice as many as there are residents of B.C.

Andrew Wilkinson, minister of technology, innovation and citizens’ services, released results of a public consultation on the new cards this week. With digital security similar to bank cards, he said the public appears prepared to use them to apply for prescription renewals, birth, death and marriage certificates, voter registration and criminal records checks.

Secure online access to such government services would require passwords to be issued, “robust” computer programs to be completed and at least half of B.C. residents to have the new cards, Wilkinson said. They are being issued as current drivers’ licences expire, and the new services could be available by the end of 2015.

Proof of identity for medical care may also be used for online booking of medical appointments.

“First of all we need to make sure that only people who are entitled to health care services in British Columbia are getting them, and secondly we have to make sure that we have the right person, the right John Smith who shows up in the emergency room after an accident and can’t speak for himself,” Wilkinson said. “With the services card they’ll have a unique identifier that connects them with the proper medical records and establishes that they’re entitled to care.”

The cards are issued to replace the current driver’s licences, for the same $75 fee. For people who don’t drive, a similar card with only medical identity is available at no charge.