Fitbit Gets Hip to HIPAA

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Fitbit Gets Hip to HIPAA

New devices tout regulatory compliance

By Working Nurse
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If your workplace is one of the many that offer employee wellness programs, don’t be surprised if you’re given a new fitness tracker in the not-too-distant future. San Francisco-based Fitbit recently announced that it’s offering HIPAA-compliant fitness trackers in an effort to appeal to more large employers and healthcare-related businesses. Some big companies have already signed on, including Target and Bank of America.

The HIPAA Problem

While fitness trackers and health-related mobile apps have become very popular with consumers, those products have yet to catch on for workplace wellness programs. One major obstacle is that health insurance plans are subject to HIPAA. Therefore,  tracking devices offered through the company’s wellness program must be HIPAA-compliant.

Until now, companies that wanted to offer health-related apps or fitness trackers to employees had to commission a customized HIPAA-compliant version, which could be expensive. Fitbit hopes to bridge that gap by offering HIPAA-compliant fitness trackers right off the shelf.

Buyer Beware

What does all this mean for you? Unless your employer decides to hop on this bandwagon, possibly not much. While HIPAA security rules are more stringent than is customary for a lot of consumer electronics, the higher standards aren’t a panacea. Health-related information is an enticing target for data thieves, so HIPAA-compliant devices and databases are still sometimes hacked.

Also, keep in mind that HIPAA security rules are separate from the more familiar privacy rules, which only apply to covered entities and then only to protected health information (PHI). So, unless your new fitness tracker is provided as part of a program offered by a health plan or healthcare provider, don’t assume that the data the tracker gathers on your activity, physical condition or diet will be private.  

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