Bipartisan senators sent letters to telehealth providers Monument, Workit Health and Cerebral urging the companies to better protect users’ healthcare data.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) expressed concerns that the companies are “tracking and sharing sensitive and personally-identifiable health data with third-party social media and online search platforms such as Google and Facebook that monetize this data to target advertisements,” citing a report from STAT and The Markup.
The senators highlighted the growing use of telehealth, saying patients should understand how and why their data is being used before it is shared with “the world’s largest advertising ecosystems.”
The senators asked for clarity about the digital health companies’ data sharing practices, including a request for a complete list of questions users are asked on each platform. They also asked for a list of third parties who have accessed information that could be identified with a single user. The digital health companies have until Feb. 10 to respond.
“We take patient privacy very seriously and share the senators’ thoughts about the importance of privacy of patient information. We are working diligently to answer their important questions and are in the process of responding. We remain committed to working with other responsible parties to establish clear guidelines concerning the evolving technologies that improve the delivery of mental healthcare,” a Cerebral spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email.
“At Workit Health, protecting our members’ privacy is and always has been one of our most important priorities. We appreciate the Senate’s attention to the way tracking technologies are used in digital health, as privacy is a core part of our ethos and one of the reasons our co-founders created a discreet online program. This letter creates an opportunity to broach a conversation more broadly about standard industry practices in healthcare at large, and we are responding to the letter with the attentive diligence it demands,” a Workit Health spokesperson said.
Monument did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
THE LARGER TREND
The letter comes as digital health companies are facing increased scrutiny about their data sharing practices.
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission released a complaint alleging GoodRx had shared consumers’ personal health information with third parties like Google and Facebook. The drug cost transparency platform and telehealth company agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine to settle the case.
Since the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade was issued, privacy experts have raised concerns about how personal data could be used, especially regarding reproductive health and period-tracking apps.