Tracking Analytics and Healthcare Data: A Dangerous Combination

by Chuck Dyer - May 3, 2023

Maggie was browsing a healthcare provider's website to read about her recently diagnosed medical condition. She then searches for local clinics that specialize in treating that condition. Later that day, she began seeing targeted ads for medications and treatments related to her condition. This kind of targeted advertising can be alarming for patients like Maggie, especially if it involves sensitive health information that falls under HIPAA regulations. As such, healthcare providers must be diligent in protecting patient privacy and complying with HIPAA guidelines when utilizing tracking technologies.

Breaking news from Google and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has shed light on potential HIPAA violations caused by the use of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in healthcare data management. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that sets guidelines for the protection and security of medical information.

In a recent blog post, Google announced that GA4 can be used to track user interactions with healthcare websites, including information on health conditions and treatments. While this may seem like a useful feature, it raises fundamental questions about the security and privacy of this sensitive information.

The HHS has issued a warning to healthcare organizations, stating that the use of GA4 in healthcare data management may be a violation of HIPAA. This has sparked concerns among healthcare providers and patients alike, who are worried about the potential misuse of their medical information.

With this latest news and increased awareness of data privacy issues, patients are becoming more aware of their rights and the importance of protecting their medical information is opening the door to the potential for class action lawsuits against healthcare organizations that use GA4 and other tracking analytic tools.

Considering these concerns, it is important for healthcare organizations to take proactive steps to ensure the security and privacy of patient medical data. “The potential impact to data privacy caused by tracking tools such as Google Analytics 4 underscores the importance of performing thorough security reviews of all technology utilized within healthcare organizations to ensure that those technological investments consistently meet HIPAA data privacy requirements”; said Michael Paeltz, Director of Security at Star Seven Six. “Understanding the risks that a given technology brings to the table is critical in lowering the risk of a future breach.”

Star Seven Six specializes in helping healthcare organizations protect sensitive data from cyber threats and potential HIPAA violations. Our team of experts can provide customized solutions tailored to the specific needs of each organization, including comprehensive risk assessments, vulnerability testing, and threat monitoring.

The use of Google Analytics 4 and other tracking tools in healthcare is a real concern that must be addressed. The potential for HIPAA violations and class action lawsuits is too great to ignore. It is imperative that healthcare organizations take proactive steps to ensure the security and privacy of their patients' medical information.

Over his 35 year career, Chuck has worked in just about all facets of IT, from hands on network engineering to server and datacenter architecture to business continuity, as well as managing teams of developers focused on SaaS product design and development. Much of his career was building and advising emerging technology startups in the cloud, AI and blockchain industries. In addition, he is a US Military Veteran of 24 years, having served in the United States Marine Corps, United States Air Force Reserve and Ohio Naval Reserve. Chuck serves as the Vice President of Strategy at StarSevenSix.