Web tracking technology has been in the news a lot lately. Most websites use such tools to track users as they navigate through a particular site and around the web. Nothing new here. But in doing so, user data gets transferred from one site to another, or actively collected, posing privacy risks for healthcare providers.
A new study, published in Health Affairs, indicates that 99% of hospital websites use third-party tracking code on their sites, creating privacy risks for patients and legal liability for hospitals:
We found that third-party tracking is present on 98.6 percent of hospital websites, including transfers to large technology companies, social media companies, advertising firms, and data brokers. Hospitals in health systems, hospitals with a medical school affiliation, and hospitals serving more urban patient populations all exposed visitors to higher levels of tracking in adjusted analyses. By including third-party tracking code on their websites, hospitals are facilitating the profiling of their patients by third parties. These practices can lead to dignitary harms, which occur when third parties gain access to sensitive health information that a person would not wish to share. These practices may also lead to increased health-related advertising that targets patients, as well as to legal liability for hospitals.