Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., introduced legislation this week that aims to modernize health privacy laws and regulations to take into account the impact of emerging technologies used to provide healthcare.

According to the senators, the role of technology companies is increasing in health care, and health information is expanding beyond the reach of the existing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The extent of emerging technology in the health care sector was barely conceivable when HIPPA passed in 1996.

The over 26-year-old existing law protects all interactions between patients and their doctors, but it does not protect patient health data obtained from emerging technologies, potentially risking patient information.

“The potential of new technology to improve patient care seems limitless. But Americans must be able to trust that their health data is protected if this technology can meet its full potential,” said Sen. Cassidy in a press release. “HIPAA must be updated for the modern-day. This legislation starts this process on a pathway to make sure it is done right.”

The Health Data Use and Privacy Commission Act offered by Sens. Baldwin and Cassidy would form a health and privacy commission to research and give recommendations to Congress on modernizing health data and privacy laws to ensure patient privacy and trust. The senators said their legislation aims to balance innovation while ensuring that health data still advances patient care.

The bill would direct the commission to draft recommendations and conclusions for Congress on a host of issues including:

  • Potential threats posed to individual health privacy;
  • Appropriate time, benefits, and consequences to sharing health information;
  • Effectiveness of existing health privacy statutes;
  • Recommendations on necessary Federal regulations;
  • Analysis of financial needs for additional regulations;
  • Cost analysis of legislative or regulatory changes;
  • Recommendations on non-legislative health privacy solutions; and
  • Reviewing the effectiveness and utility of third-party statements of privacy principles and private sector self-regulatory efforts.

“Folks across Wisconsin and the country are rightfully concerned about the security of their personal information, especially individual health care data, and it is time to give Americans better protection over these records,” said Sen. Baldwin in a press release. The legislation would help modernize health care privacy laws to give American’s peace of mind that their personal health information is safe while ensuring that “we have the tools we need to advance high-quality care,” she added.

Read More About
More Topics
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.