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Hospitals seeking quick end to online tracking enforcement

Hospitals seeking quick end to online tracking enforcement

Multiple healthcare industry groups are urging a Texas judge to end the enforcement of online tracking regulations. 


What happened 

In November, a lawsuit led by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and soon joined by the Texas Hospital Association, Texas Health Resources, and the United Regional Health Care System was filed against the federal government.  

At the time, the AHA expressed frustration at enforcing the HHS’ online tracking guidance, which continues to bar hospitals from using certain third-party organizations that some believe improve operations and efficiency.  

Despite the ruling, the AHA further claimed that government-run healthcare organizations continued to use third-party tracking technologies. 

Read more: AHA files lawsuit against HHS over online tracking guidance


What’s new

Now, the same organizations are urging a Texas federal judge to make an early ruling in favor of their lawsuit. 

The suit argues that enforcing the tracking guideline is unlawful for multiple reasons. It claims that tracking data is not currently protected by health privacy law, as individuals can visit a hospital website for a variety of reasons that are not necessarily related to the individual’s health status. They also argued that the bulletin was not supported by any reasoning, violating the Administrative Procedure Act. 

Lastly, the lawsuit argued that the rollout of the guidance was defective because stakeholders could not provide commentary on the impact of enforcement. 


What was said

According to court documents, the lawsuit heavily criticized the HHS’ rollout, calling it “A gross overreach by the federal bureaucracy, imposed without any input from healthcare providers or the general public, this new rule is being actively enforced by HHS against hospitals and health systems across the country.”

Others have said third-party companies should face more impact than hospitals, “It is critical that technology companies like Meta take seriously their role in protecting user health data,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). “Without meaningful action, I fear that these continuing privacy violations and harmful uses of health data could become the new status quo in health care and public health.”  

Read more: Meta claims hospitals are to blame for Meta Pixel HIPAA violations


Why it matters

If the lawsuit or demand for an early decision is successful, it could set a precedent for future legal proceedings. 

We’ve seen a dramatic rise in lawsuits regarding tracking tools, both from the government and the general public. The public is becoming increasingly aware of tracking tools that may be used for marketing or gathered for other reasons. This could add increased pressure on the HHS to continue enforcing violations.  


The big picture

Ultimately, the case shows the dramatic impact an end to pixel tracking has had on hospitals, especially those that have yet to transition away from tracking technologies. 

While the HHS argues that these technologies result in privacy violations, it has been difficult to assess the impact on hospitals and, thus, patients by removing these technologies. 

While we wait to see how the lawsuit plays out, hospitals should still try to stop utilizing pixels, as this debate will likely continue.

Related: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide

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