Technology

New Health Data Guidelines Give Consumer Tech-Makers an Ethical Baseline

By / Sep 13, 2019 (alvarez/E+/Getty Images Plus)

The Consumer Technology Association’s new voluntary guidelines for data use in consumer health tech balance flexibility with transparency and security.

The Consumer Technology Association is weighing in on ethical considerations related to the growing array of gadgets that track personal health data. This week, CTA released a set of voluntary guidelines for CTA members and others who make such tools, aiming to protect consumer privacy and ensure that users’ health information is handled responsibly.

The spread of personal health and wellness technology has brought benefits for both consumers and society, CTA noted.

“Consumers benefit first and foremost with more information about their health and wellness and a better ability to choose a fitness plan, make health- and wellness-related decisions, and even navigate complex medical issues. Healthcare companies, science, and society may benefit too,” the new guidelines state in the introduction. “It is now possible to develop sophisticated tools to research health and wellness on an aggregated basis, resulting in better and quicker diagnoses and treatment for certain conditions.”

But health data is particularly sensitive. “Companies in the health and wellness ecosystem understand that they must be good data stewards to maintain consumer trust,” the document says.

The Guiding Principles for the Privacy of Personal Health and Wellness Information [PDF] advocate transparency, care, accessibility, security, and accountability in the use and collection of data but allow flexibility in how creators of new technology implement the standards. In a news release, CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said the guidelines will both protect consumers and encourage continued innovation.

“These privacy guidelines, developed with consensus among industry stakeholders, will help give both individuals and companies the confidence to invest in innovative technologies which will improve health,” Shapiro said in a news release.

CTA says a number of its members—including Doctor on Demand, Embleema, Humetrix, IBM, and Validic—took part in developing the guidelines.

CTA has been working on its healthcare bona fides of late. It recently brought a variety of companies, including some outside of the technology sphere, to its digital health and fitness division, and it has engaged federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on issues related to healthcare tech. Also this month, CTA added Humana, a major health insurer, to the division’s member list, reflecting that company’s significant work on healthcare tech in recent months.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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