What Do Advertisers Do with Your Health Data?

Last month we reported that hospitals are piloting voice enabled smart speakers in patient rooms at hospitals. Our post focused on Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. But a similar program is underway at Boston Children’s Hospital. Expect a program such as these to start in New York, at any one of the leading medical care systems available in the state.

The idea behind the smart speaker program is improving patient comfort. It also would help hospital staff stay organized by routing requests from the patient to the appropriate hospital personnel to improve a patient’s stay in the hospital. For example, if the patient needs medication for pain an alert is sent to the RN; if the patient needs assistance using the bathroom, an alert would be sent to the nurse’s aide immediately rather than to the RN then the nurse’s aide as is the usual practice.

Is my medical care and information private?

All this ease and convenience, however, comes with a major drawback: patient privacy. For the most part, people want to keep their personal private health care matters and concerns private. By now, you have been asked to read HIPPA related disclosure policies ad nauseum by your healthcare provider. And, don’t forget to sign in all of the places with an “X”.

Technology companies like Google make money by monitoring, tracking, and reporting your online searches and selling them to advertisers. When you search online for information related to treating cold and flu symptoms for example, your search is then sold by Google to drug manufacturers and paper companies interested in contacting you through advertisements about information related to a cure, like cold medicine and vaccines or tissue paper to combat runny noses and sneezing.

Most people probably don’t care if people know they have a cold. They may be more concerned about a more serious ailment, like stage 5 renal failure, that has still not been diagnosed but suspected. If you share your google account with a spouse, you may not want them to see ads about renal failure before you have the opportunity to discuss it with him or her.

The Boston program mentioned above even has an at-home component. Parents can ask KidMD questions to help identify symptoms and propose treatment and provide instructions on how to obtain medical help. Should the new parents come into the emergency room right away or could they wait until the next day and have their child’s pediatrician evaluate and treat.

Consumer voice assistant’s like Amazon’s Alexa are not HIPAA compliant

Amazon, the maker of Alexa, filed a patent for voice assistant that would recommend cold and flu medicine if it overhears you coughing.

Change your privacy settings

You can limit the ability of Google to target ads to you based on your online searches. Review your privacy settings and seek assistance with the computer whiz’s,’ also known as grandchildren, that surround you to keep as much of your information as private as possible.

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