Data Privacy

In early March 2024, the EU lawmakers reached agreement on the European Health Data Space (EHDS).  For now, we only have a work-in-progress draft version of the text, but a number of interesting points can already be highlighted. This article focuses on the implications for “wellness applications” and medical devices; for an overview of the EHDS generally, see our first post in this series.

The final text of the EHDS was adopted by the European Parliament on 24 April 2024 and is expected to be formally adopted by the European Council in the coming months.Continue Reading EHDS Series – 4: The European Health Data Space’s Implications for “Wellness Applications” and Medical Devices

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (“HELP”) Committee, published on February 21, 2024, a white paper with various proposals to update privacy protections for health data. In Part 1 of this blog series (see here), we discussed the first section of Senator Cassidy’s February 21, 2024, white paper. Specifically, we summarized Senator Cassidy’s proposals on how to update the existing framework of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as amended, and its implementing regulations (collectively, “HIPAA”) without disrupting decades of case law and precedent. In this blog post, we discuss the other sections of the white paper, namely proposals to protect other sources of health data not currently covered by HIPAA.Continue Reading Senator Cassidy Issues White Paper with Proposals to Update Health Data Privacy Framework – Part 2: Safeguarding Health Data Not Covered by HIPAA 

On February 21, 2024, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (“HELP”) Committee, issued a white paper, “Strengthening Health Data Privacy for Americans: Addressing the Challenges of the Modern Era,” which proposes several updates to the privacy protections for health data. This follows Senator Cassidy’s September 2023 request for information from stakeholders about how to enhance health data privacy protections covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) framework and to consider privacy protections for other sources of health data not currently covered by HIPAA. The white paper notes that several entities, including trade associations, hospitals, health technology companies, and think tanks, responded to the RFI.Continue Reading Senator Cassidy Issues White Paper with Proposals to Update Health Data Privacy Framework – Part 1: Updates to the HIPAA Framework

On December 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), through the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMHSA”), issued a proposed rule to implement statutory amendments enacted by Section 3221 of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”).  Specifically

On Wednesday, October 6th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 41, the Genetic Information Privacy Act, which expands genetic privacy protections for consumers in California, including those interacting with direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) genetic testing companies.  In a recent Covington Digital Health blog post, our colleagues discussed SB 41 and the growing patchwork of state genetic privacy

Last Friday, October 1, the Protecting DNA Privacy Act (HB 833), a new genetic privacy law, went into effect in the state of Florida establishing four new crimes related to the unlawful use of another person’s DNA.  While the criminal penalties in HB 833 are notable, Florida is not alone in its focus

On September 15, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) adopted, on a 3-2 party-line vote, a policy statement that takes a broad view of which health apps and connected devices are subject to the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule (the “Rule”) and what triggers the Rule’s notification requirement.

The Rule was promulgated in 2009 under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act.  Under the Rule, vendors of personal health record that are not otherwise regulated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) are required to notify individuals, the FTC, and, in some cases, the media following a breach involving unsecured identifiable health information.  16 C.F.R. §§ 318.3, 318.5.  Third-party service providers also are required to notify covered vendors of any breach.  16 C.F.R. § 318.3.Continue Reading FTC Adopts Policy Statement on Privacy Breaches by Health Apps and Connected Devices

Legislation that would amend California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (“CMIA”) is working its way through California’s Senate and passed in the Senate Health Committee earlier this week.  The proposed bill passed in the state’s Assembly back in April.  Introduced by Democratic California Assemblymember Edwin Chau, who sits on the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, the proposed legislation (AB 1436) expands the definition of “provider of health care.”  Under the CMIA, providers of health care are subject to various obligations, including provisions that restrict the disclosure of medical information without a prior valid authorization, subject to certain exceptions.
Continue Reading Proposed Bill Would Expand the Scope of the CMIA

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced this month a proposed settlement against Flo Health, Inc. (“Flo”), the developer of popular menstrual cycle and fertility-tracking application (the “Flo App”), resolving allegations that “the company shared the health information of users with outside data analytics providers after promising that such information would be kept private.”  The proposed settlement requires Flo, among other things, to obtain review by an “independent third-party professional” of its privacy practices, obtain users’ consent before sharing their health information, alert users whose data was disclosed, and require third-parties that previously received that data to destroy it.
Continue Reading FTC Reaches Settlement with Digital Health App, Requires First Notice of Privacy Action

On December  10, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued a proposed rule to modify the Standards for the Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (the “Privacy Rule”) promulgated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH Act”).  According to HHS’s announcement, the proposed rule would amend the Privacy Rule to “support individuals’ engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry.”  Public comments on the proposed rule are currently being accepted through February 12, 2021.

The proposed rule is part of HHS’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, initiated pursuant to Secretary Alex Azar’s value-based transformation agenda, which seeks to “promote value-based care by examining federal regulations that impede efforts among health care providers and health plans to better coordinate care for patients.”  Throughout the Privacy Rule, HHS sought to protect health information while also permitting information sharing for certain beneficial purposes.  However, stakeholders have questioned whether the Privacy Rule strikes the appropriate balance in certain situations.

Proposed modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule include strengthening individuals’ right to access their protected health information (“PHI”), including electronic PHI; facilitating greater family involvement in care for individuals dealing with health crises or emergencies; and allowing providers more flexibility to disclose PHI when harm to a patient is “serious and reasonably foreseeable,” such as during the opioid crisis or COVID-19 public health emergency.  Importantly, multiple provisions of the proposed rule, discussed in greater detail below, address electronic health records (“EHRs”) and personal health applications.Continue Reading HHS Announces Proposed Changes to HIPAA’s Privacy Rule