MDLive faces class action suit over alleged data privacy breach

An Illinois-based law firm has filed a class action lawsuit against telemedicine company MDLive, alleging that the company takes screenshots of sensitive patient health information and sends them to TestFairy, an Israeli company that does quality control on apps, and that this is a violation of patient privacy. MDLive, for its part, denies that there’s anything improper about its procedures.

The suit alleges that, as a quality control measure, MDLive takes up to 60 screenshots during the first 15 minutes of use of its mobile app — time during which patients are filling out their medical histories. These screenshots, which can contain medical histories, are sent to TestFairy and can also be viewed by MDLive employees who have no medical reason to have access to patient’s records.

“Our complaint alleges that the harm is complete at the point that this information is collected without permission and being used in the manner we allege it’s being used,” Chris Dore, an attorney at Edelson PC, the Illinois-based law firm that filed the suit, told MobiHealthNews. “The exposure of personal medical information is itself harm. These consumers pay for this service and they rely on the fact that their information is going to be secure, and we alleged they didn’t get the benefit of the bargain.”

Edelson PC is a lawfirm that’s somewhat notorious in Silicon Valley for filing lawsuits related to privacy and security. In the past, it’s taken on Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Netflix as well as many smaller companies. According to a feature on the firm the New York Times ran in 2015, Edelson sees itself as a sort of private AG, suing companies to defend consumers and promote better behavior from the tech sector. Their detractors in the valley, on the other hand, consider them to be out for self-enrichment at the expense of well-to-do tech companies.

For its part, MDLive released both a statement and a fact sheet saying the allegations are baseless, MDLive takes privacy very seriously, and the company is filing a motion to dismiss the case.

“Protecting patient privacy and confidentiality is a top priority for MDLive,” the company told MobiHealthNews in an email. “We have confirmed that patient information is safe and no HIPAA breach occurred. Our services, policies and procedures are designed to keep personally identifiable information secure and meet the strictest legal and regulatory standards. The claims of this lawsuit are entirely without merit, and we will immediately seek its dismissal.”

Reading between the lines, the fact sheet seems to suggest that TestFairy and MDLive have a HIPAA business associate agreement, which would make any data sharing that occurred less of a concern, legally speaking. Furthermore, MDLive says that TestFairy “has no access to patient information that arises from patient-physician consultations.” Of course, that language is carefully chosen: Patient histories, filled out before the consultation takes place, wouldn’t constitute “information that arises from patient-physician consultations” but could still be considered sensitive medical information.

There are a number of hurdles to get over before the suit can get anywhere. If MDLive’s motion to dismiss fails, there will be a discovery period and then a class certification process before the case can go to trial.

Philips releases enterprise telemedicine software for intensive care units

The most visible and utilized telemedicine tools available today are mainly geared toward primary care, but there is a growing emergence of specialty and high-touch medicine delivered through telemedicine technology. Case in point, Royal Philips debuted its enterprise-level telemedicine software designed for use in intensive care units at the American Telemedicine Conference in Orlando.

Philips’ eCareManager, the company’s new FDA-cleared teleICU software, works to alleviate critical care team shortages by offering a platform connecting regular hospital staff with intensivists – physicians trained specifically for work in the ICU – and offering actionable insights to improve outcomes for patients with the most complex cases.

“Now more than ever health systems need to seamlessly integrate and utilize tools that will help their organization optimize resources and take care of as much of the patient population as possible,” Manu Varma, who leads Philips Wellcentive and Hospital to Home, said in a statement. “As we continue to face physician shortages, allowing health systems to scale their services while providing quality outcomes is critical in the shift to value-based care. This technology eases the burden on physicians by allowing them to see more patients and making the critical care delivery process more efficient, opening up more beds and improving readmission rates.”

The software is also source-agnostic, which allows hospitals to easily integrate the platform into their workflows and foster coordination between bedside care teams and virtual physicians, and, in turn, enabling intensivists to monitor more patients. Altogether, the eCareManager aims to help care teams intervene more quickly with the most high-risk patients.

The launch of eCareManager comes just a few weeks after a CMS-commissioned report showed how Philips’ eICU technology saved Emory Healthcare $4.6 million and also improved outcomes across the hospital system.

Similarly, hospital systems who have tested Philips’ eCareManager have also seen improvements in their care quality and efficiency to high-risk patients.

“TeleICU technology is a powerful asset in providing proactive care by making quick catches around subtle changes in patient care and showing which patients need immediate attention,” Dana Gilbert, Presence Health’s chief strategy and population said in a statement. “Since implementing Philips’ eCareManager 4.1 as part of the beta testing process under IRB governance, we have been able to improve workflow efficiency for our clinicians and increase the number of patients that our team can oversee at a time while maintaining improved patient outcomes and thereby giving Presence Health one more way to provide quality, compassionate care.”

UK triage chatbot maker babylon gets $60M, plans next generation app

UK-based health chatbot company babylon, which raised $25 million in early 2016, has raised an additional $60 million in funding. While the company didn’t disclose the investors, TechCrunch and Financial Times report that the round included Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire business family, NNS holdings, Vostok New Ventures, and existing backers Kinnevik. They also report that the company’s total funding is now in the neighborhood of $200 million.

babylon’s offering is essentially a triage chatbot, which uses AI to ask users a series of introductory questions and determine whether they need to be seen by a human doctor. This has the potential to address doctor shortages by relegating some easier tasks to computers.

“Cutting edge artificial intelligence, together with ever increasing advances in medicine, means that the promise of global good health is nearer than most people realise,” ​Dr. Ali Parsa, founder and CEO of babylon, said in a statement. “babylon scientists predict that we will shortly be able to diagnose and foresee personal health issues better than doctors, but this is about machines and medics cooperating, not competing. Doctors do a lot more than diagnosis: artificial intelligence will be a tool that will allow doctors and health care professionals to become more accessible and affordable for everyone on earth. It will allow them to focus on the things that humans will be best at for a long time to come.”

babylon has already had a chance to put these ideas into action on a fairly large stage: the UK’s National Health System, which is testing babylon’s technology in a six-month trial in north-central London, includes 1.2 million covered citizens. The company’s direct-to-consumer offering starts with an AI-powered chatbot which can escalate up to a video visit if necessary. Triage via Babylon requires about 12 text messages and takes about a minute and a half.

In addition to the NHS pilot, babylon’s app has been downloaded by some 800,000 patients around the world, the company says. That includes about 10 percent of the population of Rwanda, all of whom signed up in the six months the app has been available there.

“This significant international investment is a great vote of confidence in Britain’s continued ability to be a global leader in developing innovative technological solutions to worldwide problems,” Parsa added.

In a press release, the company shared that it intends to continue developing its platform and making it smarter.

“This year babylon will release a ground breaking evolution of its application, to offer diagnosis by AI that can help clinicians to accurately identify the disease and the most appropriate treatment,” the company wrote. “To achieve this, babylon has curated the largest knowledge graphs of medical content, and made advances in various applications of deep learning techniques adapted specifically for healthcare.”

Science 37 picks up $29 million more for remote clinical trials

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Mpirica raises $4.6 million for surgery quality transparency

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