Digital health companies are producing increasingly innovative products at a rapidly accelerating pace, fueled in large part by the expansive healthcare data ecosystem and the data strategies for harnessing the power of that ecosystem. The essential role data strategies play make it imperative to address the data-related legal and regulatory considerations at the outset of the innovation initiative and throughout the development and deployment lifecycle so as to protect your investment in the short and long term.

The Evolution of Digital Health

Digital health today consists of four key components: electronic health records, data analytics, telehealth, and patient and consumer engagement tools. Electronic health records were most likely first, followed very closely by data analytics. Then telehealth deployment rapidly increased in response to both demand by patients and providers, the improved care delivery and access it offers, and more recently, the expanded reimbursement for telehealth solutions. Each component of digital health was developed somewhat independently, but they have now converged and are interrelated, integral parts of the overall digital health ecosystem.

The patient and consumer engagement dimension of digital health has exploded over the last five years. This is due, in large part, to consumer and patient demand for greater engagement in the management of their healthcare, as well as the entry of disruptors, such as technology service providers, e-commerce companies, consumer products companies and entrepreneurs. At this point in the evolution of the digital health landscape, the patient and consumer engagement tool dimension pulls in all other key components and no digital health consumer engagement tool is complete without the full package.

Data Strategies and Collaborations as Key Innovation Ingredients

No digital health initiative can be developed, pursued or commercialized without data. But the world of data aggregation and analytics has also changed significantly and become immensely complex in recent years. Digital health innovation is no longer working exclusively within the friendly confines of the electronic health record and the carefully regulated, controlled and structured data it holds. Today, digital health innovation relies on massive amounts of data in a variety of types, in various forms, from a wide variety of sources, and through a wide variety of tools, including patient and consumer wearables and mobile devices.


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On January 6, 2020, the California State Senate’s Health Committee unanimously approved California AB 713, a bill that would amend the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to except from CCPA requirements additional categories of health information, including data de-identified in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), medical research data, personal information used for public health and safety activities, and patient information that is maintained by HIPAA business associates in the same manner as HIPAA protected health information (PHI). If enacted, the bill would simplify CCPA compliance strategies for many HIPAA-regulated entities, life sciences companies, research institutions and health data aggregators.

Exemption for HIPAA Business Associates

Presently, the CCPA does not regulate PHI that is collected by either a HIPAA covered entity or business associate.

The CCPA also exempts covered entities to the extent that they maintain patient information in the same manner as PHI subject to HIPAA. The CCPA does not, however, currently include a similar entity-based exemption for business associates.

AB 713 would add an exemption for business associates to the extent that they maintain, use and disclose patient information consistent with HIPAA requirements applicable to PHI. For example, if a business associate maintains consumer-generated health information that is not PHI, but processes the information in accordance with HIPAA requirements for PHI, then the information would not be regulated by the CCPA. While the practical import of the new exemption may be limited because business associates may not want to apply HIPAA requirements to consumer-generated health information, AB 713 offers business associates another potential exception to CCPA requirements for patient information about California consumers.

Exception for De-Identified Health Information

AB 713 would except from CCPA requirements de-identified health information when each of the following three conditions are met:

  • The information is de-identified in accordance with a HIPAA de-identification method (i.e., the safe harbor or expert determination method) at 45 CFR § 164.514(b).
  • The information is derived from PHI or “individually identifiable health information” under HIPAA, “medical information” as defined by the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA), or “identifiable private information” subject to the Common Rule.
  • The business (or its business associate) does not actually, or attempt to, re-identify the information.


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Jennifer Geetter and Lisa Schmitz Mazur wrote this bylined article on the regulatory implications of technology-supported devices, resources, and solutions that facilitate health patient-provider interaction. “Health industry regulators are struggling with how to apply the existing privacy regulatory regime, and the permitted uses and disclosures for which they provide, in this new world of healthcare

On April 1, 2015, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which assists with the coordination of federal policy on data sharing objectives and standards, issued its Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and requested comments.  The Roadmap seeks to lay out a framework for developing and implementing interoperable health information systems that

On Wednesday, May 7, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held the third of its Spring Seminars on emerging consumer privacy issues.  This session focused on consumer-generated health information (CHI).  CHI is data generated by consumers’ use of the Internet and mobile apps that relates to an individual’s health.  The “H” in CHI defies easy definition