First-of-its-kind Report Provides Global Outlook on Patient Privacy in Mobile Health
New report offers global legislation, regulation landscape, seven country case studies, framework for addressing security and privacy issues related to mobile health
Washington, D.C. (June 25, 2013) – A new report released today on “Patient Privacy in a Mobile World” offers a comprehensive global review of privacy and security policies in the field of mobile health (mHealth). Led by the mHealth Alliance, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Merck, and Baker & McKenzie, the research also provides recommendations for ensuring the security of health data that is collected and transmitted over mobile devices.
Governments frequently cite concerns related to data privacy and security, and the protection of individual health information, as key barriers to the expansion of mHealth. This research aims to provide policymakers, mHealth practitioners, and governments with a privacy law framework that can be tailored to different cultures, environments, and scenarios to maximize patient control and autonomy over mHealth data.
“Mobile health has the potential to improve health and well-being on a global scale, and this research now provides important guidance as to how this can be achieved while still protecting patient privacy,” said Roy Birnbaum, Counsel in Merck’s International Law department and coordinator of Merck’s international pro bono program.
As mobile use begins to outpace basic infrastructure in some parts of the developing world, the potential for mobile phones to improve health outcomes is massive – Cisco estimates that 48 million people worldwide have access to a mobile phone despite lacking electricity in their homes.
“In order for mHealth to reach scale, we have to build greater trust among the recipients of mHealth solutions in the privacy and security of their health data,” said Patricia Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance. “The findings and recommendations from this research will help move the needle on mHealth privacy, and offer a valuable framework for how to proceed on complex issues related to securing health data.”
Since the project was announced last November, the partner organizations have examined seven geographically diverse countries where mHealth projects are already underway in order to research and analyze the current status of laws and regulations that address health data security. These include Bangladesh, Chile, India, Nigeria, Peru, Tanzania, and Uganda.
“Our research will equip mHealth leaders with valuable tools, enabling them to take steps to ensure that patients' personal medical information is protected -- regardless of where the patients happen to live or how much mobile technologies change,” said Michael J. Wagner, Chair of the Global Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Industry Group at Baker & McKenzie.
Using core principles present in existing privacy laws, the report identifies guidelines for future regulation in areas such as: scope of coverage, notice and consent requirements, data minimization (or the reduction of irrelevant data collections, uses, and transmissions), data security, integrity and accessibility, data transfers, and enforcement and sanctions.
The report does not, however, advocate for one universal model law for the entire world. Rather, it concludes that a one-size-fits-all approach is simply not appropriate in the privacy context and much less in an environment, such as mHealth, where the technology is continually evolving. Efforts at legislative reform to address mHealth privacy and security concerns on the national level must first take stock of the cultural, technological, and legal context.
The research was published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation through TrustLaw Connect, the global pro bono service that amplifies the impact of NGOs and social enterprises by connecting them with the best lawyers around the world.
“By connecting the mHealth Alliance with Baker & McKenzie and Merck and by shaping the scope of the project, the Foundation has played a vital role in generating outstanding and groundbreaking legal research. This collaboration is evidence that pro bono can bring together people from different sectors to achieve real impact,” said Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
About the mHealth Alliance: The mHealth Alliance champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world. Working with diverse partners to integrate mHealth into multiple sectors, the Alliance serves as a convener for the mHealth community to overcome common challenges by sharing tools, knowledge, experience and lessons learned. The mHealth Alliance is hosted by the United Nations Foundation, and its core partners include the Rockefeller Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, UN Foundation, GSMA and Norad. For more information, visit http://www.mHealthAlliance.org.
About the Thomson Reuters Foundation
The Thomson Reuters Foundation leverages the skills, values and expertise of Thomson Reuters to run programmes that trigger change and empower people across the world: free legal assistance, media development, and in-depth coverage of the world’s under-reported stories. The Foundation stands for human rights, women’s empowerment, anti-corruption and for the rule of law. http://www.trust.org.
About Baker & McKenzie
Founded in 1949, Baker & McKenzie advises many of the world’s most dynamic and successful business organizations through more than 4,000 locally qualified lawyers and 6,000 professional staff in 73 offices in 46 countries. The Firm is known for its global perspective, deep understanding of the local language and culture of business, uncompromising commitment to excellence, and world-class fluency in its client service. Global revenues for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, were US$2.313 billion. Eduardo Leite is Chairman of the Executive Committee. (www.bakermckenzie.com)
Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.