As healthcare technology evolves and advances, more and more personal health data can be collected. One significant advantage of these improvements in medical tech is that the more our doctors are able to learn about our individual health concerns, the better they can provide effective treatments and solutions for healing.
Although there are numerous benefits to advancements in the collection of accurate healthcare data, there’s still one thing we need to ensure: data privacy. The ease of personal health data collection exposes individuals to an increased risk of data misuse, and even theft.
Data Privacy, Security, and Ownership
Currently, the vast majority of our health data is collected and stored inside the health care system. Health providers are under strict rules about how they collect, store, share, and protect your data. These rules were established in 1996 through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,commonly referred to as HIPAA. HIPAA mandates both increased availability and enhanced security protections of personal health data in the U.S.
For healthcare organizations, remaining compliant with these standards can be a difficult balancing act, especially in today’s highly technological and mobile world. With the consistent expansion of healthcare data sources comes a higher number of third parties seeking to collect and analyze this data, making HIPAA’s standards of increased data availability and increased data security seem almost paradoxical.
Your Personal Health Data: Safe in the Cloud?
The personal information that your physicians collect during your visits is your own to access, utilize, and in some cases even remove. However, this isn’t the case with the health data your phone, tablet, or other mobile device gathers.
Tech giants like Apple and Google have developed and continue to create wearable devices that can track detailed information (movements, measurements, health statistics) about your body. By collecting and storing this data, they are able to analyze it and create algorithms that can provide you with helpful insights on maintaining or improving your individual health. But these devices and the personal data they collect raise important questions and concerns that remain unresolved:
- Who owns the data your wearable device collects? Unclear.
- What rights do you have to the valuable intellectual property created from your personal data? None. (Is that fair?)
- What responsibilities do the tech giants have under HIPAA regulations? Unclear.
The mobile devices and apps that many Americans use to gather and track their own personal health data aren’t protected under HIPAA’s privacy regulations because none of these technologies existed over 20 years ago when HIPAA was drafted. Needless to say, we are long overdue for an update.
At MAGIC, We’re Doing Our Part
MAGIC’s Healthy Smart Home Project aims to tackle some of the important questions about creating the tools for individuals to gather, store, and use their own health data inside the home. Developing data privacy and security regulations for the information gathered by today’s technology is vital. Establishing individual rights for our personal health data must be addressed. It’s an ambitious agenda, but one well worth the effort.