As the holidays approach, many people will consider buying their loved ones health trackers such as smart phone apps or devices such as Fitbits or Bodybuggs. While these items are wonderfully helpful in keeping track of your fitness progress, they may also be capturing your health information and selling it.
In MyHealthSpin’s Easy Healthcare: Healthcare Privacy, we discuss what you can expect regarding how your medical information is managed. One of the subjects we talk about is that fact that health apps and devices don’t necessarily protect your health data.
Most health apps want your health information so they can sell it to advertisers. A recent study found that 10 health apps sold your health information to over 76 third party companies. This information often included your name, email, exercise habits, diagnosis searches, location, gender, etc. While sharing this information may not bother you, you want to make sure the information does not get used against you.
You may see privacy notices from these various companies that let you know that they are not selling your information now. This does not mean that they won’t sell it in the future. If you want your information to remain private, you should determine whether you can opt out of any sharing of your information in the future.
A bigger problem is how an insurance company might use this information. Insurance companies can buy the health data from these companies and use it to set your premiums for your health insurance. For example, if you are using a health app that assists you in stopping smoking, an insurance company may use the information collected in the health app to set your premium higher if you are struggling to quit smoking. Health insurance premiums for smokers can be 50 percent higher than non-smokers.
You should also be concerned if your health app captures a lot of personal information along with your location. Taking your health status and your location and selling it can cause a breach in your health privacy. Again, remember there are no HIPAA protections for you as a health app consumer.
Healthcare has changed radically. Gone are the days when the only medical professional a patient saw was their trusted local doctor. MyHealthSpin’s Easy Healthcare: Healthcare Privacy walks you through the practical steps you can take to safeguard your healthcare privacy as a patient.