Washington’s My Health, My Data Act, which prevents health-tracking apps, search engines and advertisers from collecting and sharing health data without the user’s consent, has been approved by the Washington State House of Representatives in a 57-39 vote.
WHY IT MATTERS
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, is designed to protect reproductive healthcare and abortion rights, according to the Stanwood Camano News.
“It is inexcusable that private, protected health care patient and provider data would be shared for purposes outside of needed care. We’re not going to allow it in Washington,” said Governor Jay Inslee in the bill’s announcement last October.
While the bill includes an exception for public or peer-reviewed research and exemptions for processing covered by existing health privacy laws, according to the story, it was largely designed to address gaps in data privacy protections in the wake of the Dobbs Supreme Court decision.
“This is a key part of protecting Washingtonians’ access to safe, private, and reproductive care — which is more urgent now than ever,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Advertisers could share health data in the following ways:
- Period tracking app data could be sold to data brokers and result in the law enforcement investigation and prosecution of women who had an abortion or miscarriage in another state.
- Crisis pregnancy center data collected during visits could be shared with anti-abortion groups which can then target women with pro-life messaging and political ads.
- Digital advertising firms that obtain mobile data via geofencing around healthcare facilities could bombard individuals with text messages and advertisements urging them not to seek reproductive or gender-affirming care.
Meanwhile, critics of the bill say the net is too broad and will require many to extend additional resources in order to comply with the proposed law.
“This is a broad net that will scoop in company products and services that don’t really deal with anything around consumer health data,” said Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima.
The state representatives debated 23 proposed amendments before passing the bill.
THE LARGER TREND
The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued two sets of guidance to inform patients seeking reproductive healthcare and their providers in June just after the Roe v. Wade decision.
The guidance addressed how federal law and regulations protect individuals’ protected health information related to abortion and other sexual and reproductive healthcare, and reminded healthcare providers that they are not required to disclose private medical information to third parties.
The guidance also explained the circumstances under which HIPAA permits the disclosure of protected health information without individuals’ consent, focusing on how their devices can share their PHI without their knowledge.
“How you access healthcare should not make you a target for discrimination,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra had said.
ON THE RECORD
“In Washington State, we expect our healthcare data to be protected, and that includes reproductive and gender-affirming care,” Slatter said, according to the local story.
“That means combating predatory behaviors such as the sale of private reproductive healthcare data that leads to restrictions on healthcare in states like Texas. Protecting us from attacks on our most sensitive health data is long overdue. Websites and apps have the tools to protect our data. It’s time they did that.”
Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
Joe Drygas and Randy Bush will offer more detail during the HIMSS23 session “The 5G Advantage: Advanced Connectivity for Life Sciences and Healthcare.” It is scheduled for Friday, April 21 at 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. CT at the South Building, Level 1, room S105 C.
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