By Technology Times Reporter
Lagos. November 11, 2012: The mHealth Alliance, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Baker & McKenzie and Merck have partnered on a new project to review issues relating to use of mobile technology in healthcare delivery in seven countries including Nigeria.
The partnership says it wants 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, according to the partnering organisations.
Specifically, the project will develop case studies of seven geographically diverse countries where mHealth programs are underway including Bangladesh, Chile, India, Nigeria, Peru, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The partnering organisations say they will work with law firms in those countries to 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, they said.
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.
Patricia Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance says that, “to realise the promise of mHealth to improve health care for millions in need, we must ensure the privacy and security of personal health information.”
According to her, “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.”
Commenting on the initiative, Roy Birnbaum, Counsel in Merck’s International Law department and co-coordinator of Merck’s international pro bono programme says that, “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.”
The 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.
Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, adds that, “our goal was to ensure that the mHealth Alliance had access to the best lawyers with in-depth local expertise.”