By TECHNOLOGY TIMES Reporter
Lagos. June 28, 2013: The mHealth Alliance has advocated greater trust building among stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem to foster growth of healthcare delivery using mobile technology among several countries leveraging this method including Nigeria.
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,” Patricia Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance says.
The call comes amid a New report from mHealth Alliance, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Merck, and Baker & McKenzie offering global legislation, regulation landscape, seven country case studies, framework for addressing security and privacy issues related to mobile health.
The report “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, they cited.
The 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,” Roy Birnbaum, Counsel in Merck’s International Law department and coordinator of Merck’s international pro bono programme says.
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, according to the report.
“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”, Patricia Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance adds.
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.