Telehealth Services Pose Privacy Concerns

Retailers – from Amazon to Walmart – are expanding their health-care services to include virtual visits with health-care professionals. While convenient for patients, the convergence of consumer data and information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) creates some issues that current legislation is not equipped to address.

Researchers at University of California (UC) Davis School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School say privacy laws, net neutrality, and other policies need to be updated to reflect the new landscape.

Research published in Health Affairs acknowledged the advantages of using smartphones and smart-home devices to improve consumer health, but the authors also raised concerns about the absence of guidelines on the use of personal health information for both the health-care industry and the general public.

“Retail outlets using telehealth have unique advantages and opportunities for delivering convenient care to consumers,” Keisuke Nakagawa, PhD, from UC Davis Health, told Science Daily.  “But it is important to monitor developments and consolidations in the health care market to ensure our policies are well-designed, relevant and anticipate future applications of telehealth.”

Sources: Science Daily, December 3, 2018; Nakagawa K, Kvedar J, Yellowlees P. Retail outlets using telehealth pose significant policy questions for health care. Health Aff. 2018;37:2069.