In The Name Of Public Health, Patient Privacy Protections Are Being Upended. Will That Continue After This Crisis?
A desperate hunger for coronavirus data has many overriding privacy concerns usually in place to protect patients. Politico looks at the ways the outbreak could leave a lasting mark on what is considered acceptable. In other health tech news: virus apps, the psychology of Zoom and telehealth.
How The Coronavirus Is Upending Medical Privacy
Apple and Google are building massive coronavirus tracking apps. Government officials are disclosing infections to the public and pitching "immunity passports" and gadgets that can tell if an infected person leaves their house. It’s all in the name of public health. And it’s a privacy nightmare — a setback for pre-pandemic efforts to create new safeguards for digital medical data and update the HIPAA privacy law. (Tahir and Ravindranath, 4/28)
The New York Times:
A Scramble For Virus Apps That Do No Harm
Faced with a growing coronavirus threat, the governor of North Dakota last month posed a question to a friend from his private-sector days. The friend, a software engineer, had once created a location-tracking app for football fans at North Dakota State University who liked to meet up when traveling to big games. “Can you track people for Covid?” asked the governor, Douglas Burgum. Within days, the engineer, Tim Brookins, had reworked the football app to do just that, he recalled in an interview. The app is now being used in North and South Dakota as part of statewide efforts to ramp up contact tracing for people infected with the coronavirus. (Valentino-DeVries, Singer and Krolik, 4/29)
The New York Times:
Why Zoom Is Terrible
There are reasons to be wary of the technology, beyond the widely reported security and privacy concerns. Psychologists, computer scientists and neuroscientists say the distortions and delays inherent in video communication can end up making you feel isolated, anxious and disconnected (or more than you were already). You might be better off just talking on the phone. The problem is that the way the video images are digitally encoded and decoded, altered and adjusted, patched and synthesized introduces all kinds of artifacts: blocking, freezing, blurring, jerkiness and out-of-sync audio. These disruptions, some below our conscious awareness, confound perception and scramble subtle social cues. Our brains strain to fill in the gaps and make sense of the disorder, which makes us feel vaguely disturbed, uneasy and tired without quite knowing why. (Murphy, 4/29)
In Fading Steel Towns, Chronically Ill Patients Hope Video Visits Stay
Ordinarily Trueman Mills makes the trek to his cardiologist by car. He lives in rolling hills at the edge of Allegheny National Forest, about 90 miles from his doctor in Pittsburgh. It is a setting as beautiful as it is inconvenient for patients with congestive heart failure, a condition that in late March caused Mills’ legs to swell into balloon-like shapes he could barely recognize. Luckily for him, the Covid-19 pandemic came with a big silver lining: His doctor, Ravi Ramani, offered to examine him via video conference. (Ross, 4/29)
Telehealth Is Having A Huge Moment During Coronavirus Crisis
California doctors are diagnosing anything from appendicitis to strep throat with only a phone during the coronavirus pandemic. Video visits and conversations are the closest doctors can get to patients who are sheltering in place and avoiding potential exposure from doctor visits. (Ibarra and Aguilera, 4/28)