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Healthcare is being transformed by technology and data sharing. What are the concerns over sharing healthcare data?

Matthew Swendsen
Principal Solution Marketer, Oracle Financial Services
Data drives the world in which we live. Data is constantly being used in the healthcare industry to monitor and improve patients’ health. In the technology industry, data is driving innovation and growth and over the past decade, tech companies have been growing their portfolios and shifting their resources into the healthcare space.

Large tech companies including Amazon, Apple and Google have entered the healthcare industry. Haven is Amazon’s not-for-profit, joint healthcare venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway that assists employees better understand their health insurance, preventative care and prescriptions. Apple’s consumer-centric vision prioritize consumers by helping them engage in the Apple ecosystem with their devices (iWatch and iPhone) and with their business partners. Google continues to apply AI to everything from medical devices to lifestyle management solutions. All three companies are using a data driven strategy to scale and build momentum in the healthcare space.

On November 1, 2019, Google announced it will acquire Fitbit for $2.1 billion. This will diversify Google's portfolio and help it compete with Apple and others in the healthcare space. With large technology companies like Google and Apple gaining a foothold in the healthcare industry, where is this leading?

Partnerships and acquisitions between technology companies, health insurers and healthcare providers are being established. These technology partnerships inspire consumers to use devices to track and monitor their biometric health and medical data in real-time. It also encourages patients to use more preventative care services before incurring an onset disease.

IDC Research predicts by 2021, the percentage of health organizations that will leverage technology to integrate all dimensions of health to deliver personalized care and demonstrate improved outcomes will grow to only 50%.

Health insurers and providers have large numbers of member and patient data, but most do not have access to healthcare data in real-time. Technology companies are much closer to the consumer daily compared to health insurers and healthcare providers and they have access to consumers’ healthcare data in real-time. With these partnerships and acquisition in healthcare, where is this leading? It leads to more sharing of healthcare data. What are the concerns for consumers and patients?

The first concern over sharing of healthcare data is privacy. It is crucial to keep healthcare data confidential and secure. HIPAA has strict regulations around data privacy in the US.  In 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) posted a record year in HIPAA enforcement activity, garnering $28.7 million in fines and penalties. Other regulations and IT standards have been established as well to protect patients and consumers, such as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), which address privacy and security of digital healthcare data. However, there is a constant need to update these IT standards with the fast-pace changes in technology.

The second concern over more sharing of healthcare data is consumers may lose control over their data. This would allow technology companies to know everything about you. Consumer Reports health privacy expert, Dena Mendelsohn said she is concerned that people enrolled in wellness programs through their employers that use Fitbit devices could lose control over their data. With this in mind, there is a valid concern that consumer healthcare data may be used for strategic target marketing.  The Federal Trade Commission has concerns with the Google/Fitbit deal because it would consolidate Google’s dominance over internet services like search, advertising and smartphone operating systems.

In summary, the healthcare industry is being transformed by shared data and technology. Consumer healthcare data is going to be more accessible and shared between technology companies, health insurers and healthcare providers in the future. There are valid concerns over privacy issues and consumers losing control of their healthcare data. However, technology partnerships help consumers monitor their biometric health and medical data and encourage preventative care visits. The technology and healthcare industries are moving quickly toward more sharing of healthcare data and we will have to wait and see how this trend will impact the consumer and the patient.

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