Senators probe telehealth startups' healthcare data sharing practices

A group of senators sent letters to three telehealth startups — Monument, Workit Health and Cerebral — to request more information on how these companies are sharing their consumer health data. 

The probe comes as the senators express concern that these companies could be tracking and sharing their customers' personally identifiable health data with social media platforms for advertising purposes, according to a Feb. 7 letter signed by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

"Recent reports highlight how your company shares users' contact information and health care data that should be confidential…this information is reportedly sent to advertising platforms, along with the information needed to identify users. This data is extremely personal, and it can be used to target advertisements for services that may be unnecessary or potentially harmful physically, psychologically, or emotionally," the senators wrote to Cerebral CEO David Mou, MD, Monument CEO Mike Russell, and Workit Health CEO Robin McIntosh.

A Cerebral spokesperson told Becker's in an emailed statement, "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 health care."

A Workit Health representative also told Becker's that protecting its members' privacy is the company's top priority. 

"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," the representative wrote to Becker's

Monument did not respond to Becker's request for comment. 

This move comes shortly after the Federal Trade Commission proposed a $1.5 million settlement with GoodRx Holdings for allegedly sharing patient data to advertise on Facebook and Google.

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