DeFazio pushes mobile privacy law

peter-defazioCongressman Peter DeFazio

Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Tom Marino (R-PA) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in sending a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging clarification of privacy and security standards for connected health technologies.

Advances in smartphone technology over the past decade have led to an increased number of apps and connected health technologies that give healthcare professionals better insight into their patients’ health and can contribute to improved patient outcomes. But regulations are not keeping pace with new technology.

The lack of clarification from HHS on privacy and security standards for connected health technologies has made many medical professionals wary of using health apps, software and connected devices as helpful tools to treat their patients. The lawmakers are asking HHS to issue new guidelines and clarify how privacy and security rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) apply to connected health technologies. The Department’s delay prevents thousands of patients from benefitting from useful technologies.

The lawmakers first contacted HHS in 2014, requesting updated guidance to HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules for connected health technologies. HHS has yet to provide a comprehensive plan for how to best implement new standards.

“We have serious concerns about the consequences of HHS inaction,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Advances in mobile health technology have the potential to dramatically improve patient outcomes and the accessibility of health care. This innovation is coming at a rapid pace, but your agency has done little to demonstrate it can manage the significance.”

In addition to urging action on new guidelines for health technologies, the letter requests a Member-level briefing with HHS to review their progress.

“Rapidly-growing technology companies are being stifled by slow-moving bureaucracy,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “Despite the fact that HHS made a commitment to Congress that they would take necessary steps to adapt to and accommodate the needs of the modern tech community, I’m disappointed by how little progress has been made in the past sixteen months. HHS needs to follow through on their commitment to collaborate with stakeholders and the tech industry.”

“Today’s letter will hopefully send a signal to HHS that they need to bring their approach to healthcare in line with the technological advances of the 21st Century, “Rep. Tom Marino added. “The plodding pace with which they’ve updated HIPAA guidance as it relates to mobile technology is unacceptable. I am hoping that our letter restarts the progress that began in a promising way with their response to our first letter in 2014. More attention to these technologies, and an open dialogue with Congress, presents the potential for improving the doctor-patient relationship, and innumerable beneficial health outcomes.”

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