Healthcare Scores Present Growing Privacy Risks, Study Finds

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The number of healthcare-specific consumer scores with hidden underlying factors and data sources has grown in the past seven years and more are on the way, according to a new report from San Diego-based World Privacy Forum.

According to the report, health scores are now in full circulation with little consumer awareness and with little oversight or regulation. The authors of the report argue increasing health score availability raises many privacy issues.

It is possible to foresee the development of family and neighborhood health scores based on a combination of traditional medical histories, genetic data, census data, data broker lists, environmental data or histories of actual health treatments that may fall outside of HIPAA, according to the report.

While HIPAA ensures the privacy of individual health records, it does not cover the health information that may be used to determine the scores, including information held by gyms, websites, banks, credit care companies, many health researchers, cosmetic medicine services, transit companies, fitness clubs, home testing laboratories, massage therapists, nutritional counselors, alternative medicine practitioners, disease advocacy groups or marketers of non-prescription health products and foods, according to the report. 

The authors argue the protections consumers receive with respect to credit scores need to be expanded to all consumer scoring, including healthcare-specific scoring.

Each individual in plans subject to risk adjustment will have his or her own health risk score, and it is possible to foresee employers and lenders coercing individuals into obtaining their health risk score and disclosing it, according to the report.

More Articles on Protected Health Information:

GAO: Federal Agencies Need to Enhance Responses to Data Breaches
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HHS Releases Security Risk Assessment Tool

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