Through the integration of personal health management with digital platforms like websites or apps and wearable technologies (think FitBits or Apple watches), a significant amount of your personal health information is being collected and analyzed, sometimes without your knowledge. This information could be things like the number of steps you take per day or your sleep habits, or even your full genetic profile.
Problems with digitizing healthcare
While digitizing healthcare can foster convenience, personal health empowerment, ease of access to medical information, and greater efficiency, this growing trend also raises a slew of questions regarding privacy. Who can access your personal health data, and what are they doing with it? What are the obligations of companies and platforms that handle sensitive medical information, especially regarding mental health?
Legislation and it’s limitations
Depending on your location, you are protected by legislation like the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)*, which state that organizations are responsible for protecting that information. However, there are many grey areas. Take fitness trackers for example – the data uploaded to the FitBit mobile health app isn’t protected by HIPAA, meaning the individual company gets to set their own Terms of Service.
* Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA): outlines how private organizations and corporations are able to collect, use and disclose an individual’s personal data for for-profit activities around Canada.
Let’s be real – everyone skips those long legal documents. We all know we shouldn’t, but we do. When it comes to personal health data, though, we have more than enough cause to be concerned.