Health Law Highlights

US Department of Human Services vs Hospital & Tech Sector Showdown

From, by Marlene Maheu, PhD:

Recent developments in digital privacy ethics in the healthcare sector have led to a lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by the American Hospital Association (AHA), with support from hospitals, health centers, other hospital associations, and the tech sector. The issue stems from the widespread practice of sharing online patient information with technology companies for marketing purposes.

The HHS has been actively investigating the use of tracking technologies and has issued fines and penalties to companies improperly handling sensitive data. As far back as 2022, HHS issued a guidance in 2022, emphasizing the obligations of HIPAA covered entities when using online tracking technologies.

A recent study revealed that 98.6% of US hospitals might still be involved in sharing patient information, highlighting the extent of data dissemination within the healthcare industry. This has led to increased interest in preventing or responding to HIPAA violations.

The legal challenge underscores the tension between the need for digital marketing tools in healthcare and the necessity to safeguard patient privacy and will significantly affect how healthcare entities use technology for marketing.