Health IT

The Internet of Things data quandary

Is your healthcare data as private as you think? Notsomuch, according to one connected health company

The interesting thing about having an Internet of Things discussion is you never really know where it will lead. You can take a few guesses on the parts that will occupy the most time, namely security and data privacy. But you can never really anticipate how you will get there.

So in a panel discussion at the mobile health summit, there was a sudden lurch in the conversation when a moderator responded to an audience members voicing concern about the security of patient data by commenting that a lot of people seemed to have no idea that their personal health data was already available.

One panelist, making the point that even de-identified data could be matched, referenced an earlier session in which a cancer hospital had successfully identified patients’ de-identified data after matching it with CMS data.

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“The idea that you have medical privacy is a myth,” said moderator Skip Snow, an independent heath technology analyst.”

“What’s interesting is the sheer hysteria created around health information,” said Qualcomm Life Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Mault. “Your data is out there at Walgreens when you get your prescription filled. If you have any information at UnitedHealth, it is there to be hacked whether you like it or not. The problem is you have no access to your own data. Hospitals have greater access to your credit card history than your health records.”

Mault suggeted that after awhile, we’ll feel as comfortable entrusting companies with our healthcare info as we do our credit card details.

“The risks have not changed in past few years but people have come to have a comfort level storing their credit card information on Amazon and other websites for convenience,” he said. “We are never going to have a system where the risk is zero.”

The audience was a bit surprised by the bluntness of the message given the fact that everyone has access to their own credit card history but relatively few have easy access to their electronic health records. It would be nice to see a little more respect for patients’ data privacy concerns. If digital health is ever going to reach wide adoption, it would be much better for the companies banking on that future to address them rather than dismiss them.

In his defense, Mault also explained that more should be done through state laws to address health data ownership and access concerns.

“We have a country where one state in the country recognizes patient data as  owned by the patient yet we have HIPAA that calls out fact that you as a patient have a legal right to a copy of that data on demand. There are a lot of contradictions out there and we need to be more proactive in our conversations in D.C. and at the state level to push forward a clear set of statutes that all patients have a constitutional right to all their data.”

Anyone want to have a guess at the name of the state Mault refers to?