Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol.4: A Look at Health Technology

( by Allison N. Daley, Colorado Law 2L)

This week I want to focus on a specific area of tech law and policy: health care. With the advent of telemedicine as a way of providing health care at a distance, there is exciting potential for innovation, however with this innovation comes new challenges in law and policy.

As just one example, there is a new app, Harbinger, that transmits communication from Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers in an ambulance to hospitals in real time. The hope is that such technology can improve care by sending protected health information (PHI) such as drivers licenses and insurance cards to hospitals for faster registration.  The app even allows EMS workers to send pictures and videos of injuries or accident scenes for more rapid diagnosis and treatment.

With this great technology, however, privacy concerns abound. Because cell phones store data on the device itself, PHI is much more likely to fall into the wrong hands if a cell phone is lost or stolen.  While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)  does not have any official rules banning the use of cell phones, the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires health care providers to implement appropriate safeguards to reasonably protect health information.

In order to solve this problem, the Harbinger app promises:

[P]atient information is encrypted with today’s most advanced methods. The data is transported to our server with the industry standard for banks and credit cards, and is stored in an encrypted format.

While this sounds like it may satisfy HIPAA standards, patients and hospitals will likely still have concerns about this new technology. The founders, both Coloradoans, are currently negotiating with hospitals and we may see the system operating by the end of the year.

For more information, check out Harbinger’s website.

See you next week!