Data are the lifeblood of public health practice and research. Data are essential for surveillance, epidemiological investigation, research, program development, implementation and evaluation. Public health agencies collect, analyze and store identifiable information from a disparate collection of sources and use data in diverse ways.
This issue brief summarizes Michigan laws related to rights of minors to obtain health care without the consent or knowledge of their parents (focuses on Michigan provisions, which may have counterparts in other states).
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the health care industry is now the number one target for cyber attacks. Unauthorized access to health information impedes public health efforts. Understanding the role of cybersecurity is central to managing risks to both the health and public health sector.
A physician who participates on an asthma workgroup recently contacted the Network about potential legal issues related to keeping and distributing lists of students with health concerns in a school setting. Specifically, the requestor wanted to know the considerations involved in having schools create lists of students who suffer from asthma to distribute to teachers, coaches, bus drivers and other staff. This list would help staff be prepared to respond in case of an asthma attack.
Wednesday, August 30 at 1 p.m. ET. This webinar will equip public health practitioners with HIPAA basics, terminology, myth busters and strategies to maximize access to and increase the exchange of health information while maintaining the public’s trust. View the playback.
Databases and registries include identifiable information about individuals with specific diseases, illnesses and injuries. Historically, public health data has been stored separately depending on where it came from or what it was used for. However, technological advances have increased linkages between data repositories and therefore expanded the potential uses and value of data for public health practice and research. But increased data sharing also brings an increased need for public health agencies to protect the integrity and sensitivity of this information.
Emerging health information exchanges have the potential to greatly increase the appropriate flow of data between many health-related entities, including patient treatment information exchanged between health care providers. In addition to potentially reducing costs, health information exchanges have the potential for many other benefits to patients, health care workers and public health officials, including:
Like other new technologies, however, health information exchanges raise corresponding legal and policy issues.
Many existing laws pertain to the use, storage and disclosure of data. Public health practitioners need to understand how these laws apply to multiple issues, such as how to address the fact that many health care providers, schools and others are reluctant to share data. Public health practitioners also need to understand privacy and security laws. For example, public health practitioners engaged in research must understand and heed the federal Common Rule and comparable state provisions, which protect individuals whose data are used in research. Public health practitioners also need to consider ethical issues, such as weighing an individual’s confidentiality with a disease threat to the community.
Experienced Network attorneys are ready and able to provide technical assistance and guidance on any legal or ethical issue that arises from the collection, use, storage and/or disclosure of data by public health agencies.
For legal technical assistance and support on accreditation of public health agencies, please contact your region. Your region will connect you with the appropriate expert based on your request.
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The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel. For more information on the type of legal assistance the Network can provide, please see frequently asked questions.