New Partnership to Advance Understanding of mHealth Privacy and Security Policies

Source: The mHealth Alliance

Today the mHealth Alliance, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Baker & McKenzie, and Merck announced that they are partnering on a new project to increase the understanding of privacy and security policies that relate to the use of mobile technologies in health care, a field known as mHealth. According to a 2011 World Health Organization report, governments cite issues related to data privacy and security and the protection of individual health information as two of the top barriers to the expansion of mHealth. Protecting personal health information that is collected and transmitted over mobile devices is essential to bringing mHealth to scale.

Specifically, the project will develop case studies of seven geographically diverse countries where mHealth programs are underway: Bangladesh, Chile, India, Nigeria, Peru, Tanzania, and Uganda. Working with law firms in those countries, the partners will research and analyze the status of policies, laws, and standards that address mHealth-related privacy and security issues. The goal of the project is to better understand the current policy landscape and identify gaps that must be addressed to protect health data transmitted over mobile devices.

Next year, the partners will release the policy landscape analysis and outline best practices and recommended steps to close policy gaps in the ethical and secure use of mHealth data.

“To realize the promise of mHealth to improve health care for millions in need, we must ensure the privacy and security of personal health information,” said Patricia Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance. “The first step is to take stock of the current policy landscape to assess what is working and what more needs to be done. The mHealth Alliance is grateful to our partners for their leadership in this vital project.”

“The growing use of mobile technology has the potential to significantly improve the delivery of health care in developing countries, but there is also the increased risk that electronic medical data could be misused,” said Michael J. Wagner, Chair of the Global Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Industry Group at Baker & McKenzie. “We are proud to be part of this effort to help protect the privacy of patient data and promote the delivery of quality health care in developing countries.”

“We are excited to leverage our expertise, in collaboration with our partners, to help build a solid mHealth framework that contributes to improving the quality of life of people around the world, while protecting their rights at the same time,” said Roy Birnbaum, Counsel in Merck’s International Law department and co-coordinator of Merck’s international pro bono program.

This project was facilitated by TrustLaw Connect, a Thomson Reuters Foundation service which allows NGOs and social enterprises to access free legal assistance. TrustLaw Connect brokered the partnership between the mHealth Alliance and the team of global and local law firms led by Baker & McKenzie and the legal team at Merck.

“Our goal was to ensure that the mHealth Alliance had access to the best lawyers with in-depth local expertise,” said Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

About the mHealth Alliance
The mHealth Alliance champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world. Working with diverse partners to integrate mHealth into multiple sectors, the Alliance serves as a convener for the mHealth community to overcome common challenges by sharing tools, knowledge, experience, and lessons learned. The mHealth Alliance also hosts Health Unbound (HUB), a global online community for resource sharing and collaborative solution generation. Hosted by the United Nations Foundation, and founded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, and UN Foundation, the Alliance now also includes HP, the GSM Association, and Norad among its founding partners. For more information, visit http://www.mHealthAlliance.org.

About the Thomson Reuters Foundation
Established in 1982, Thomson Reuters Foundation is a registered charity in Britain and the United States. The charitable arm of the world's leading provider of news and information is committed to empowering people in need around the world with trusted information and free legal assistance. The Foundation leverages the skills, values and expertise across Thomson Reuters to promote the rule of law, save lives in disasters and improve standards of journalism. Our initiatives stand for better governance, greater transparency, more effective humanitarian relief and a robust global press. The services on Trust.org, the Foundation's portal site, build on the humanitarian-information initiatives and journalism-training programmes of the Reuters Foundation. Visit the Foundation at http://www.trust.org.

About Baker & McKenzie
Founded in 1949, Baker & McKenzie advises many of the world’s most dynamic and successful business organizations through more than 4,000 locally qualified lawyers and 6,000 professional staff in 72 offices in 45 countries. The Firm is known for its global perspective, deep understanding of the local language and culture of business, uncompromising commitment to excellence, and world-class fluency in its client service. Global revenues for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, were US$2.313 billion. Eduardo Leite is Chairman of the Executive Committee. (http://www.bakermckenzie.com)

About Merck
Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit http://www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.