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Active on Health Privacy

CDT has long been active on issues in health privacy and the past few months have been especially busy. Here’s a quick snapshot of the various projects and outreach we are working on – ranging from wearables to your online porn viewing habits.

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Always On: Taking the Privacy Pulse of Today’s Digital Patient

To examine a multitude of health privacy questions, we held the 4th iteration of our “Always On” series, this time bringing together leading experts in government, academia, advocacy, and industry to explore the regulatory and social challenges we face as digital patients. Michelle details the conversations that were held, the questions that were posed, and the solutions that were considered, plus more.

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Digital India’s Impact on Privacy: Aadhaar numbers, biometrics, and more

Much of the discussion at the recent India-U.S. Information and Communications Technologies Working Group focused on the Indian government’s “Digital India” initiative to promote universal connectivity, with the goal of providing every citizen with broadband connection by December 2016. As part of a “cradle-to-grave digital identity” for its citizens, the government plans to draw on the Aadhaar program, a controversial unique identification system that has led the Indian government to create the world’s largest biometric database. Lisa discusses its privacy concerns and more.

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House Oversight Committee Questions FTC’s Enforcement Practices

The FTC’s case seemed straightforward enough: it’s not a good idea to install file-sharing software on computers that hold unencrypted medical records. That’s what LabMD, a Georgia-based medical testing facility, was accused of doing in a 2013 FTC complaint. Most companies typically settle with the Federal Trade Commission to avoid the costs of protracted litigation (and because they typically don’t have to pay any fines given the FTC’s lack of penalty authority). However, LabMD thought they were being unfairly picked on — they argue the FTC should be suing the file-sharing software maker, LimeWire, instead — so they made the FTC take them to court.

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Privacy and Security Considerations of Telehealth

Telehealth – using telecommunication technologies to prevent illness and promote health – has incredible potential benefits. Telehealth can help reach underserved or remote populations, and it can also help reduce costs in general, while providing more real-time interaction between medical providers and patients. The benefits – and effectiveness – are becoming increasingly clear, however the full potential of telehealth cannot be realized unless privacy and security risks are addressed upfront.

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Covered California’s Misguided Privacy Policy

Earlier this month, Covered California – the state’s affordable health care insurance marketplace – launched an initiative to boost enrollment by inviting individuals who had started an application on the website, but did not finish it, to complete their application. However, the manner in which Covered California is doing this – through sharing the names, addresses and emails of potential applicants with insurance agents and brokers, and having the agents invite the applicant to return to complete their application – has alarmed insurance agents as well as the potential applicants.

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Privacy Protections Must Accompany New Models of Health Care

The bumpy rollout of healthcare.gov has been front-page news for the past several weeks, but the topic of health reform extends well beyond current efforts to get everyone insured. Efforts to transform health care so that it delivers greater value for patients at more rational costs are proceeding apace. For example, Walgreens is piloting a new model of care – called Well Experience – where the pharmacist’s work area is relocated from behind the counter out into public areas of the pharmacy. This enables the pharmacist to interact more regularly with members of the public – to answer questions and provide advice to patients.

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An Examination of the Health Privacy Landscape in California

What’s happening in California with respect to health privacy? In short, a lot! In a new report released by the California Healthcare Foundation and authored by CDT’s health privacy team, California’s dynamic health privacy landscape is analyzed, with areas for future policy explored. “Rights and Requirements: A Guide to Privacy and Security of Health Information in California” is an invaluable resource for health care professionals in California and elsewhere as they address the privacy and security challenges of patient information.

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Privacy Reform in Health Care Began Well Before Obamacare

After three years of preparation, today is “Implementation Day” for a signature piece of the Affordable Care Act – the day that health insurance exchanges or “Marketplaces” will be open for individuals seeking coverage. There has been a lot of attention from Congress – and the American public – regarding the integrity and readiness of these insurance marketplaces, especially in terms of privacy. The good news though is that not only has privacy been a core consideration in the design of the Marketplaces, but also that health care privacy reform has made significant progress over the past four years.

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Margin of Error on Privacy and Security Narrows for Affordable Care Act Insurance Marketplaces

With less than two months to go before enrollment is set to begin in the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplaces, a report last week from the HHS Office of the Inspector General found that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have moved their internal deadlines for security testing of the Data Hub to mid-September with a final agency sign-off due on September 30th, the day before open enrollment begins. Getting security right is vital and CMS has crunched its margin for error by moving the deadline to the last minute. The attention being paid to security and privacy at this stage is a good thing – the American public deserves to be reassured that the personal data they enter into the new system, or that is shared by federal agencies, is used appropriately and does not fall into the wrong hands.

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