TTA’s Where Did Spring Go?: Meta Pixel captures personal health info, sending to Facebook; Oracle’s remaking of Cerner; Balwani’s Theranos trial nears verdict; data breaches skyrocket, more!

 

 

Weekly Update

Probably the most important and developing story of today is the misuse of Meta Pixel ad tracking code, its capture of personal health information from major health system sites, and sending it straight to Facebook. A corollary story is the sharp rise of health data breaches, now in the millions. Telemental Cerebral’s legal miseries pile up, Sunny Balwani of Theranos awaits legal verdict, and successful fundings a bit thin on ground. And will there even be a Cerner left after Oracle’s through with it? (The skepticism around tech fixes to Big Health Problems continues.)

Breaking: Hospitals sending sensitive patient information to Facebook through website ‘Meta Pixel’ ad tracker–study (Next week’s Big Story)
Thursday news roundup: FTC now investigating Cerebral, Balwani’s Theranos trial rests at last, Proscia pathology AI $37M Series C, health data breaches pile up (Hackermania continues to run wild)
Wednesday news roundup: Oracle scrutinizing outside vendors, cloud change coming for Cerner EHRs, audio-only telehealth can continue after PHE–HHS, Proximie connected surgery raises $80M (UK) (Will there even be a Cerner left?)
Oracle’s Big Healthcare Transformation: it’s all about ‘better information’ (sigh) (updated) (A misguided trust in tech fixes?)

Oracle’s close on their Cerner buy led the news, with the usual claims that the combined companies will ‘redefine the future of healthcare.’ For those who’ve heard that song before, the business of healthcare continues, with Apple, Amwell, Connected Health (UK), a metabolic tracker out of India, and the biggest US data breach of the year so far. Cigna tracks why loneliness is peaking, while the less lonely join class-action lawsuits against Teladoc. And considering SPACs to go public the easy way? Fuggedaboutit!

Weekend review: FDA clears Apple Watch ‘AFib History’, OS9 adds health features; Amwell’s new CMO; 2M records breached at New England provider, largest this year (Apple reinforces Watch for health)
Remote health monitoring a winning strategy…for sports? (Metabolic tracking is the angle)
Thursday news roundup: dimming SPACs, hospital-at-home pilots in DFW, Connected Health debuts bespoke home care services configurator in NIR (The decline in SPAC ‘funny money’)
A sneak peek at Oracle’s plans for healthcare prior to 9 June’s ‘The Future of Healthcare’ live (Without listening to Tony Blair! And nary a mention of DOD and VA.)
Wednesday AM roundup all about money: $28B Oracle-Cerner closes today, 9 June strategy talk; Teladoc class-action lawsuits begin; Cigna’s look at loneliness (Money and the loss of)

Last weekend was Britain’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend, which made the bank holiday very special indeed. And from the US, much respect. A potpourri of news including the likely closing of Oracle’s Cerner buy (it will, on 8 June) and the Homeward Bound second act of several Livongo veterans.

God Save The Queen on her unprecedented 70 years of service!

Thursday news roundup: bet on Oracle-Cerner closing next week, VA EHR progress reports mandated, Homeward-RiteAid rural care, Medtronic-DaVita kidney JV, Withings reenters RPM, Lightbeam buys Jvion AI (Potpourri of activity)
CVS, Walmart refuse Cerebral, Done Health controlled substance prescriptions via telehealth; Cerebral CEO replaced (Trouble in telementalhealth-land)

A little bit of everything as we arrive at the unofficial start of summer. Walmart expands its drone delivery, AWS gains a big one in the Healthcare Cloud Wars, and Verizon publishes its latest roundup on IT breaches. Oracle-Cerner moves a little closer to full international approval. There’s an Aging2.0 challenge, a substantial RPM raise, and NY seniors get robots. And to white coat or not on a telehealth consult.

Thursday’s short takes: Walmart’s delivery drones expand, AWS lands Geisinger for AI and cloud, UHG-Kaia Health partner for virtual MSK therapy (Droning on and the Cloud Wars accelerate)
ElliQ companion robot, NYSOFA partner for NY older adult assistance (Will they like it?)
Wednesday news roundup: Oracle-Cerner reportedly OK’d by EU, VitalTech RPM raises $14.1 M, Aging 2.0 interoperability challenge, what do rough times mean for investors and startups, employees cause 39% of healthcare IT breaches (Breaches multiply, and Lisa Suennen’s take on what to expect from the current financial craziness)
To white coat, or not to white coat? That is the telehealth doctor question. (A short, refreshing read through the history of the medical white coat)

Our strange May continues with a lot of legal activity, including the tale of one doctor who side gigged as Dr. Mabuse, Master Cybercriminal. Telehealth continues a wobbly path, with claims down along with Amwell’s performance. And Cerner has more problems, this time with DOD and VA. But a new Perspective gives us hope that the UK can save more than £14 bn through TEC–and there’s always self-driving cars for med delivery!  

Thursday legal news roundup: Oscar Health accused of IPO securities fraud; Venezuelan cardiologist moonlights as cybercriminal, faces slammer; Change Healthcare sues former employee now at Olive AI (When lawsuit news outstrips M&A, it’s not good)
Cerner EHR implementation with both DOD and VA running into interoperability, other problems: Federal audit (More process problems being sorted out in public)
Perspectives: Where next for technology-enabled care after 2025? (Is £14bn in savings over the next 10 years an underestimate?)
News roundup: telehealth claims drop 9% in February; Amwell’s good news, bad news Q1; tech-enabled practice Crossover Health growing; NowRx and Hyundai test semi-self-driving delivery (One hopes those Hyundai Ionics drive better than telehealth’s performing)

May’s ups and downs, with the stock market drowning out healthcare. Cerebral confirmed their Federal investigation for prescribing practices, putting a bucket of cold water on this hot sector. But good news pokes its head out, with a Johns Hopkins study that telehealth is benefiting the underserved and urban, not just the affluent and young. More good news with a telecare pioneer receiving the top award for UK enterprise.

Alertacall receives Queen’s Award For Enterprise: Innovation (An outstanding recognition for a telecare pioneer in this Platinum Jubilee Year)
CMS telehealth pandemic waivers boosted usage among disadvantaged, urban patients (Tide lifting all boats, and that’s good)
DOJ investigates telemental Cerebral on over-prescribing of controlled medications (A flashing warning sign for investors)


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Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

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Thursday news roundup: FTC now investigating Cerebral, Balwani’s Theranos trial rests at last, Proscia pathology AI $37M Series C, health data breaches pile up

Telemental health Cerebral’s miseries pile on. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is now investigating Cerebral on deceptive advertising and marketing practices. The Wall Street Journal (may be paywalled) reviewed the 1 June letter sent to the company. The letter requests the usual preservation of documents and asks ‘dozens of questions’ related to their business. Of particular interest to the FTC is the ‘negative option’ practice that continues the subscription fee unless the subscriber takes positive action to cancel it. Subscribers have complained that Cerebral did not cancel their subscriptions after repeated attempts to do so and did not refund their money. Reuters, FierceHealthcare

Also of interest to the FTC will be the dodgy advertising claims about ADHD and obesity which ran on TikTok and Instagram [TTA 10 May]. The WSJ reported that their ad spend topped $65 million for this year–$13 million on TikTok alone from January to May this year, making Cerebral the third-largest advertiser behind HBO and Amazon, according to research firm Pathmatics.

The FTC action follows the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of their prescribing of controlled (Schedule 2, high potential for abuse) substances such as Adderall and Xanax, CVS and Walmart refusing their prescriptions, the unceremonious booting of the CEO and co-founder, and a wrongful dismissal lawsuit by a former VP of product and engineering, Matthew Truebe. Certainly, its investors led by SoftBank, which raised $300 million in December less than six months after a raise of $127 million, are unhappy at watching their $4.8 billion baby crash and burn.

The second “rerun” Theranos trial of Sunny Balwani rests. This much-muted trial is winding towards its close. Receiving much less breathless and near-sensational coverage than Elizabeth Holmes’, Theranos president Balwani was tried in the same San Jose Federal district court, with the same prosecutor (Robert Leach), just about the same charges (12 counts of wire fraud), and Judge Davila presiding. Holmes was convicted and her sentencing is scheduled for September.

The prosecution rested on 20 May and the defense on 9 June. The trial took some delays due to at least two jurors falling ill from Covid. The defense strategy rested on Holmes’ founding and operating the company without Balwani for a few years and that he never sold his shares, making him as victimized as any ordinary investor. The prosecution is relying on how close Holmes and Balwani were, that he had great power at Theranos–and used it, plus in his position was well aware of the problems with the lab machines and deliberately sought to defraud investors by covering it up. Unsurprisingly, Holmes did not testify at his trial, although she was a looming presence at his as he was somewhat at hers, especially in her testimony about their relationship. Closing arguments took place on Tuesday (14 June) and the jury will be charged after their conclusion. NBC Bay Area, New York Post, Wall Street Journal

Happier news comes from Proscia, a pathology software company, funding a $37 million Series C. Highline Capital Management, Triangle Peak Partners, and Alpha Intelligence Capital led the round along with participation from five earlier investors. Their total funding is up to $72 million. Their AI-enabled Concentriq platform combines “enterprise scalability with a broad portfolio of AI applications to accelerate breakthroughs and unlock clinical insights that advance precision medicine.” Clients include 10 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies as well as the Joint Pathology Center, Proscia release, Becker’s 

Adding to the tally of healthcare data breaches are several this week. The year-to-date winner, of course, are the 2 million at Shields Health Care Group in Massachusetts [TTA 10 June], but this week, reports have been breaking out like late spring roses:

  •  A clinical guidance software vendor’s breach reported 10 June has exposed the protected health information (PHI) of patients at Omaha, Nebraska-based CHI Health and Sioux Falls, South Dakota based Avera Health. Avera has about 900 exposed patients, but the number at CHI is not yet known. MCG Health is the vendor. Becker’s
  • Yuma (Ariz.) Regional Medical Center reported an April ransomware attack that while short in duration, exposed PHI of 700,000 patients. An unauthorized user removed files from the hospital’s system that included patient health information such as names, social security numbers, health insurance information, and limited medical information relating to care. The hospital went offline until it was resolved, including reporting to law enforcement. Becker’s, Healthcare Dive
  • UChicago Medicine had its employee accounts hacked in March by an unauthorized user. It exposed about 2,500 patient records that included patient first and last names, social security numbers, health information, legacy Medicare beneficiary identification numbers, health insurance policy numbers, and driver’s license numbers. Becker’s
  • And Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington had about 70,000 patient PHIs exposed on 5 April when an unauthorized user gained access to one employee’s emails with information on patient first and last names, dates of service, laboratory test information, and medical record numbers.

Short, but certainly not sweet, and expensive.

About time: digital health grows a set of ethical guidelines

Is there a sense of embarrassment in the background? Fortune reports that the Stanford University Libraries are taking the lead in organizing an academic/industry group to establish ethical guidelines to govern digital health. These grew out of two meetings in July and November last year with the participation of over 30 representatives from health care, pharmaceutical, and nonprofit organizations. Proteus Digital Health, the developer of a formerly creepy sensor pill system, is prominently mentioned, but attending were representatives of Aetna CVS, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals (which works with Proteus), Kaiser Permanente, Intermountain Health, Tencent, and HSBC Holdings.

Here are the 10 Guiding Principles, which concentrate on data governance and sharing, as well as the use of the products themselves. They are expanded upon in this summary PDF:

  1. The products of digital health companies should always work in patients’ interests.
  2. Sharing digital health information should always be to improve a patient’s outcomes and those of others.
  3. “Do no harm” should apply to the use and sharing of all digital health information.
  4. Patients should never be forced to use digital health products against their wishes.
  5. Patients should be able to decide whether their information is shared, and to know how a digital health company uses information to generate revenues.
  6. Digital health information should be accurate.
  7. Digital health information should be protected with strong security tools.
  8. Security violations should be reported promptly along with what is being done to fix them.
  9. Digital health products should allow patients to be more connected to their care givers.
  10. Patients should be actively engaged in the community that is shaping digital health products.

We’ve already observed that best practices in design are putting some of these principals into action. Your Editors have long advocated, to the point of tiresomeness, that data security is not notional from the smallest device to the largest health system. Our photo at left may be vintage, but if anything the threat has both grown and expanded. 2018’s ten largest breaches affected almost 7 million US patients and disrupted their organizations’ operations. Social media is also vulnerable. Parts of the US government–Congress and the FTC through a complaint filing–are also coming down hard on Facebook for sharing personal health information with advertisers. This is PHI belonging to members of closed Facebook groups meant to support those with health and mental health conditions. (HIPAA Journal).

But here is where Stanford and the conference participants get all mushy. From their press release:

“We want this first set of ten statements to spur conversations in board rooms, classrooms and community centers around the country and ultimately be refined and adopted widely.” –Michael A. Keller, Stanford’s university librarian and vice provost for teaching and learning

So everyone gets to feel good and take home a trophy? Nowhere are there next steps, corporate statements of adoption, and so on.

Let’s keep in mind that Stanford University was the nexus of the Fraud That Was Theranos, which is discreetly not mentioned. If not a shadow hovering in the background, it should be. Perhaps there is some mea culpa, mea maxima culpa here, but this Editor will wait for more concrete signs of Action.

VA’s ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ telehealth initiative finalizes

VA Secretaries may come and go (or never get there), but their initiatives stay. With much fanfare last year, then-Secretary David Shulkin announced the ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ telehealth and telemedicine program [TTA 3 Aug]. This program will use VA practitioners to provide virtual patient care across state lines when a veteran cannot make it to a VA hospital or clinic. The Department of Veterans Affairs published the proposed rule last October [TTA 3 Oct 17] with the Final Rule published in the Federal Register on 11 May.

Technically, it preempts state and local regulations around telehealth. “VA is exercising Federal preemption of conflicting State laws relating to the practice of healthcare providers; laws, rules, regulations, or other requirements are preempted to the extent such State laws conflict with the ability of VA health care providers to engage in the practice of telehealth while acting within the scope of their VA employment.”

It was widely supported by ATA, the American Association of Family Physicians, American Medical Informatics Association, Federal Trade Commission, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), and many other industry organizations. It also enjoys wide Congressional support.

There is plenty of room for growth. Only 1 percent of VA’s veterans used Home Telehealth, while 12 percent used other forms of telehealth. They will be doing so with few suppliers: Medtronic, 1Vision/AMC Health, and Care Innovations. Iron Bow/Vivify Health was found to not have tablets which met the US production qualification. This Editor wonders how the current three suppliers will fare.

This telehealth program will be located in the apparently newly named Veterans Health Administration Office of Connected Care. mHealthIntelligence.com

CVS-Aetna: DOJ requests additional information at deadline (updated for CVS earnings)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The Canary Tweets. The sources [TTA 8 Dec] were correct that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would take the lead on reviewing the CVS-Aetna merger. Yesterday (1 Feb) they did, requesting additional information. This extends the waiting period for an additional 30 days or more.  The CVS Form 8-K (SEC), which reports the request for information, is here courtesy of Seeking Alpha.

The US law governing this is the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR). A pre-merger notification and report was filed with DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on 2 January. There’s a 30-day period for an additional information request and that was taken by the DOJ yesterday. The length of the compliance process may extend for 30 days but may be less if the request is satisfied or more if requested by the parties involved. 

CVS and Aetna still hope to complete the merger by the second half of 2018. The respective shareholder meetings are already scheduled for 20 March. Our previous coverage here.

Editor’s thoughts: CVS-Aetna, despite its size, is a relatively straightforward merger, but because of its nature and size, expect some political haymaking and delays to come. This will be a preview of the action around the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan Chase cooperative partnership, in whatever they decide to create, if they create: “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.”

Updated for 4th Quarter Financials: CVS is reasonably healthy and nimble. Their earnings report is positive in earnings, operating profit, and reinvestment versus prior year. Under US securities law, it’s silent on Aetna. Form 8-K and press release via Seeking Alpha.

CVS-Aetna: the canary says that DOJ likely to review merger–plus further analysis and developments

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The canary is still tweeting. News reports indicate that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will be in the lead reviewing the CVS acquisition of Aetna. This should be no surprise to our Readers. This Editor’s first analysis noted regulatory necessity and earlier this week, more explicitly predicted either the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the DOJ would be reviewing.

The New York Post’s Beltway sources (for ex-US readers, it’s the mass market News Corp. paper/site) are talking up DOJ:

President Trump’s Department of Justice appears to be the agency that will review CVS Health’s $69 billion merger with Aetna, sources tell The Post. While the decision is not yet final, the move would not be good news for the merging parties, sources said. “I think they would prefer it to be at the Federal Trade Commission,” one Washington, DC, source said.

The article explains that it’s a tossup as to bailiwicks–FTC reviews retail and drugstore mergers, DOJ insurance mergers. A sound but (by CVS) unwelcome reason for DOJ to review the merger is their familiarity with Aetna after DOJ opposing its failed merger with Humana in Federal court less than a year in the past. Their expertise would be wasted and politically, a cup that FTC would wish to pass inasmuch they are also short on commissioners.

As the Third Century Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus stated, ‘The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind small’ (or ‘exceeding fine’ in more modern citations), which means that justice, at least in the Federal definition, will be served eventually.

  • The Trump Administration has let DOJ question the AT&T/Time Warner merger on antitrust reasons up, down, and sideways, to the point where it is nearly derailed. Much the same can be expected here.
  • The businesses create a new type of healthcare system. Expect HHS to have a say.
  • Congress is already demanding hearings, which given the short time to Christmas break will likely be January. 
  • What may help Aetna’s cause is that the merger with Humana was a friendly one; the decision, at least in the press, was accepted with grace. 

But as wags have said for at least two centuries, you can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back. When you’re redesigning the Conestoga Wagons, it has to be expected–which is why the experts gathering here in NYC over the past week have had not much to say about it to date.

Certainly it has been a downer for investment pickers, though both companies had significant profitability challenges facing them in the future. We refer here to several articles in Seeking Alpha where it’s predicted that the acquisition will boost CVS’ growth, but saddle it with huge debt: $45B in new debt, $21B in new equity, plus using $4B in available cash. Are they overpaying? Will it reduce internal cost and boost profitability? Will it do what they say they’ll do, which is to bend the cost curve down by start-to-finish engagement with customers? What pieces are missing? And time is a critical factor–how long this will take to realize is not projected. If you like stock and value charts and graphs, here’s the place. Seeking Alpha (by author): Ciura, Arnold, Ward

Other retailers will have their say. We’ve noted earlier that the vast supermarkets like Publix, Wegmans, Shop Rite or Ahold (Stop & Shop, Giant) are likely looking at opportunities with logical alliances or buy-ins to insurers like Oscar, Clover, Bright Health, or the smaller Blues. Target is already allied with CVS for their in-store drugstores. And then there is retail/online giant Walmart. The Wal-Martians need plenty of healthcare and Humana, based on local Louisville-area reports, is in play after not merging with Aetna.

Looming over all this is Amazon. A little-noticed report in Becker’s from July indicated that their 1492 unit has set about extracting data from legacy EHRs and to build a telehealth platform on Amazon hardware such as Echo. Already noted has been their buying of pharmacy licenses in various states. None of which can make any of the usual healthcare suspects happy.

Summertime, and the ransomware is running wild (updated)

Mashing up our summer ‘tune’ list are the latest reports on ransomware attacks and data breaches:

  • Banner Health’s odd breach of 3.7 million records, first testing their café credit cards then entering their patient information systems, is leading to at least one class-action lawsuit. HealthITOutcomes, Becker’s Hospital Review
  • Bon Secours Health System of Maryland had a exposure of 655,000 records when a business associate of Bon Secours left patient information exposed online for four days while it adjusted its network settings. Healthcare Dive
  • The Locky ransomware has been battering hospitals since the beginning of August, with phishing emails spiking on August 11. Most of this global strike is attacking healthcare, with transportation and telecom running second; countries with the highest frequency of attacks are US, Japan, and South Korea, FireEye reports. ZDNet
  • Solutionary, now NTT Security, which specializes in cybersecurity services, reported last month that 88 percent of all ransomware detections in second quarter 2016 targeted healthcare. However, Cryptowall, not Locky, was the killer ransomware they spotted, accounting for nearly 94 percent of detections. Release
  • Can you anticipate cyber crimes like these? ID Experts has an intriguing blog post on how you can think like a cyber thief. Part One of a promised three-part series. Updated: ID Experts disclosed earlier this week that it spun off RADAR, its two-year-old IT security and compliance company, effective 2 Aug, with a $6.2 million Series A funding. It appears that the CEO wrote the check (CrunchBase).  There’s gold in dem dere cyber varmints! MedCityNews  Release
  • Scared enough? The Federal Trade Commission comes to the rescue with a half-day seminar on ransomware detection and prevention in Washington DC on September 7. The session is free and will be webcast (details to come). FTC release, event page

HIMSS Monday highlights

HIMSS is the largest US healthcare conference in the world, and Neil Versel, who has just joined the staff of MedCityNews, reported that registrations in this year’s event in Chicago were in excess of 40,000. He has a 37 minute interview with HIMSS Executive Vice President Carla Smith where they touch on CMS, Meaningful Use, EHR interoperability, data security, patient engagement and the empowered patient such as E-Patient Dave deBronkart (who will also be at The King’s Fund Digital Health conference in June). HIMSS is also showcasing on the show floor mobile health, interoperability, cybersecurity, disaster preparedness, intelligent health and the connected patient….Another sign that the Wild West days of digital health are over is the increasing oversight of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on non-HIPAA regulated health data collected by fitness and wellness devices. This is in addition to health apps making unsupported claims (see today’s and previous articles on melanoma detection apps) and the PaymentsMD patient billing software that was collecting a little extra patient data. This is both extra- and in addition to FDA. Mobihealthnews….. The Venture+Forum on Sunday discussed doctor burnout particularly in acute care and to ease this, focusing on the Holy Grail of proactive rather than reactive care and results rather than ‘shiny new objects’ (what this Editor has called Whiz-Bang Tech) “Doctors want clinical decision execution. Don’t give me any more tools.” Healthcare IT News….A survey by Accenture released today on doctors and EHR usage headlines good news–79 percent US doctors feel more proficient in their EHR usage than in their 2012 survey. The bad news is that other numbers are plummeting: fewer believe that EMR has improved treatment decisions (46 percent in 2015 vs. 62 percent in 2012), reduced medical errors (64 vs. 72 percent) and improved health outcomes for patients (46 vs. 58 percent). Familiarity breeds contempt? Buried way down in the release is that US physicians offering telehealth monitoring to patients has tripled since the last survey, from just 8 percent in 2012 to 24 percent now. Accenture surveyed over 2,600 physicians in six countries….HIMSS goes to Thursday, so more to come!

Melanoma app fined by FTC for deceptive claims (US)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/melapp-screens.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Following on Editor Charles’ reporting since February on two ‘melanoma detection’ apps cited by the US Federal Trade Commission as making unsupported claims on diagnosis of assessment of melanoma risks, one of the two, MelApp, has been fined approximately $18,000, deciding 4-1 in a final consent order. MelApp, an iOS and Android app developed by Health Discovery Corporation and retailing for $1.99, claimed without proof that it could assess skin lesion risk (low, medium, high) through a smartphone photo plus questions about the mark. From the FTC release: “The final order settling the action bars the company from claiming that any device detects or diagnoses melanoma or its risk factors, or increases users’ chances of early detection, unless the representation is not misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. It also prohibits Health Discovery Corporation from making any other deceptive claims about a device’s health benefits or efficacy, or about the scientific support for any product or service….” No word on a final consent order against Mole Detective, but we believe it will follow shortly. FTC press release. Previously in TTA: Action on bad apps, Mole Detective still available, and Mole Detective vanishes. Photo courtesy of the 23 February FTC release

All the sillier then that the VentureBeat article on the FTC action takes the tack that “The fine shows how difficult it will be for future mobile entrepreneurs to launch health apps that go beyond basic fitness and heart rate monitoring.” (more…)

Action on bad apps in the US – not yet in the UK/EU

It is most encouraging to see that the FTC in the US has reached a settlement with two suppliers of “Melanoma Detection” apps: “In two separate cases, marketers of MelApp and Mole Detective have agreed to settlements that bar them from continuing to make such unsupported claims.” The FTC are pursuing actions against two other companies.

Echoing the requirements also of the EU’s Consumer Protection Directives as applied to health claims (notably the Misleading & Comparative Advertising Directive 2006/114EC), Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said: “Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace.” “App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps.”

Sadly, despite a number of exposures of ‘bad apps’ that we have previously covered, as yet no action (more…)

Tons of app health data, bound for…third parties?

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/obey_1984.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] The law of unintended consequences also applies to Quantified Selfers. Health apps seem to be reaching beyond the QS early adopters and becoming a commonplace, whether on your wrist or built into your smartphone. Apple, Google, IBM and Samsung are all in.The DH3 set (Digital Health Hypester Horde) could not be more pleased. But where is that data going? According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it’s ending up where your online data goes–profitably sold by developers large and small to your friendly data broker and onward to marketers. You may think it’s private, but it isn’t. There is the famous case of an Target (store) app used to determine whether female customers were pregnant (purchases such as pregnancy tests) and then market related and baby products to them. Commissioner Julie Brill doesn’t like the possibility that health data could be part of the Spooky Monster Mash that is Big Data. “We don’t know where that information ultimately goes,” Brill told a recent Association for Competitive Technology panel. “It makes consumers uncomfortable.” (Ahem!) From the consumer protection standpoint, the FTC would like to do something about it, and they happen to be very good at that type of regulation. Compliance will not only be an added cost of doing business, it will cut into that ol’ business plan. And you thought that the only problem around apps and the Feds was gauging risk to users. Do you have that creepy ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ feeling?  Health IT Outcomes, FierceMobileHealthcare, VentureBeat.

Finally a curb on ‘patent trolls’? (US)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/TROLLS-1992-008.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] Those nasty patent trolls–those (largely) non-practicing entities (NPEs) which buy up patents to license them. Yet most of their revenue stream comes from pouncing on startup and early-stage companies to challenge their patents and systems, extracting la mordida to avoid further legal action. Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has moved to curb one egregious practice: deceptive demand letters. The FTC issued an order to MPHJ Technology Investments LLC (MPHJ) banning its allegedly deceptive letters to companies which MPHJ considered to be infringing on its scanning technology. MPHJ filed first a draft complaint, and now a legal action against the FTC in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleging violations of the First Amendment on free speech. Under US law, ‘deceptive’ may not be good enough–their letters threatening lawsuits must be shown to be ‘objectively baseless.’ The FTC requested dismissal of MPHJ’s suit this past Monday. Their rejoinder: the suit would disrupt its work.  National Law Review, Law360 (subscription/Lexis Nexis access required).

Previously in TTA on patent troll strategies and how companies defend themselves:  TTA 13 Sep 13, 10 Feb 13. (Also search on ‘patent troll’, ‘MMRGlobal’ and ‘patent infringement’.