Health Privacy

About health privacy, World Privacy Forum key health privacy resources

The World Privacy Forum is extremely active in health privacy, with a long and successful track record of work in this area. We have done groundbreaking work in the area of medical identity theft, as well as substantive analysis and education on critical privacy aspects of health data such as medical research, genomics, and many other issues. 

Some of our most frequently accessed health privacy resources include:

* A Patient’s Guide to HIPAA

* Medical Identity Theft Page (resources, reports, more)

* Health privacy tagged materials 

* HIPAA tagged materials 

* Electronic Health Records tagged materials 

* Common Rule and Human Subject Research Protection tagged materials

* Genetic privacy tagged materials 

We have many more publications and resources. For a full list of topics and publications, see our key issues page.

See below for health privacy news and content by date.

World Privacy Forum requests adoption of a “no stakeholders left behind” policy in AHIC successor plans

AHIC successor | health care privacy — The World Privacy Forum offered public comments on HHS’ American Health Information Community (AHIC) successor plans, urging that HHS adopt a “no stakeholders left behind” policy as it forms the new public/private AHIC. The Forum’s analysis of the AHIC Successor White Paper concluded that the current succession plans lack processes and checks that would ensure meaningful consumer participation, and that the AHIC successor plans as they currently stand do not bode well for a robust role for privacy or consumer groups in the new AHIC. Specific issues the World Privacy Forum discussed in its comments included fee structures, membership, handling conflicts of interest, stakeholder issues, privacy and identifiability issues, and the need for the new AHIC to achieve credibility.

World Privacy Forum and EFF submit comments on AHRQ plan for national healthcare database

AHRQ / databases | medical privacy — In June, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published a request for information about its plan to create a “public/private” national database of healthcare information tentatively called the “National Health Data Stewardship entity.” WPF and EFF raised questions about ownership and management of the proposed database (Would this database fall under HIPAA? Would it fall under the Privacy Act of 1974?), questions about identifiability of patients in the database, and suggested that a full-time, independent privacy officer should be established for the program from the inception of the planning stages. The comments also discussed the numerous questions relating to data security (including medical identity theft) and data quality, as well as consent, access, and opt-out procedures for patients that the proposed national database raises.

World Privacy Forum responds to June 2007 NCVHS recommendations to the Secretary of HHS regarding health care information at non-HIPAA covered entities

Medical privacy | NCVHS | HIPAA — The World Privacy Forum has sent a letter to Dr. Simon P. Cohn, Chairman of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, supporting the Committee’s formal conclusion that all entities that create, compile, store, transmit, or use personally identifiable health information should be covered by a federal privacy law. More needs to be done about health care data that is left unprotected by HIPAA. The Forum’s letter included a discussion of two HHS programs that operate outside of HIPAA: FDA RiskMAPS, and the National Institutes of Health, which is not a covered entity under HIPAA.

World Privacy Forum testifies at FDA advisory committee hearing on the iPledge program; requests attention to privacy issues

iPledge Program | FDA — The World Privacy Forum testified before the Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration regarding privacy issues related to iPledge, a mandatory program for patients taking the drug Accutane or isotretinoin generics. The FDA has stated that the program, which it requires four drug manufacturers to have in place, does not fall under HIPAA. The program collects substantive amounts of patient information. The Forum urged the FDA to set privacy standards for all RiskMAPs in general, and to resolve privacy issues in the iPledge program specifically. The Forum requested that all marketing provisions of the iPledge program privacy policy be removed, that patients be expressly informed the program does not fall under HIPAA, and that patients be given a printed copy of the iPledge program privacy policy, among other requests.

World Privacy Forum requests that the new National Disaster Medical System protect all patient information to standards at least equal to HIPAA

National Disaster Medical System | Privacy Act of 1974 — The World Privacy Forum has filed public comments with the Department of Health and Human Services requesting that its new National Disaster Medical System protect all patient information to at least the baseline protections that HIPAA affords, including the HIPAA security and privacy protections. Currently, the new system does not do this, even though the system is housed at HHS, the agency which promulgated the HIPAA standards. The National Disaster Medical System currently contains overbroad routine uses which could potentially result in significant privacy and even public health issues. For example, public health information will not be able to be disclosed under the National Disaster Medical System as the system is currently organized. Additionally, some of the current routine uses in the system would authorize disclosures that would be illegal under HIPAA. For example, Congressional disclosure of a HIPAA record requires a written authorization, something the new system does not require.