HHS tightens tracking tool rules for healthcare organizations

HHS' Office for Civil Rights is updating its stance on online tracking tools amid several hospitals, health systems and insurers facing lawsuits for using them. 

According to a March 19 bulletin, HHS stated that regulated organizations must not use tracking technologies in a way that would lead to sharing private health information with tracking technology providers or breaking HIPAA rules.

HHS said organizations can work with a technology vendor that provides tracking technology, but they cannot disclose protected health information to tracking technology vendors for marketing purposes without their consumers' consent. 

This comes after a report from nonprofit news outlet The Markup found that 33 of the top hospital websites installed these kinds of trackers, which sends patients' data to third parties when people schedule appointments. 

In 2023, several lawsuits were filed against hospitals and health systems for allegedly sharing patients' protected health information with third-party companies such as Snapchat, Google and Meta.  

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