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Health law and technology: Where innovation and data interests collide

27th November 2019

Technology giants promise innovation and efficiency in return for your data, so what are they doing with it and how are they using it?

Conversations about data and privacy are often associated with online platforms and web services. However, have you ever thought about how and where your health data is being used? Professor Jane Kaye, Director of the Centre for Law, Health and Emerging Technologies (HeLEX) at the University of Oxford, discussed issues relating to data use and privacy in her speech at the Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR) 7th Annual Public Oration.

Multi-billion dollar revenues generated by consumer spending in the health care sector have provided market opportunities for tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and IBM, to apply their technologies to harvest and use date due to the sector’s inefficiencies and regulatory gaps.

In short, the companies bring the technology and know-how, and in return healthcare provides rich data and complex problems. The differences in culture and interests of healthcare providers, consumers and tech companies can be stark. Professor Kaye highlighted the differing motivations and interests in the context of the absence of transparency in private contracts.

Introducing Professor Kaye to speak on the topic, Digital Health, Citizens and Commercialisation, Co-Director of ACHLR, Associate Professor Tina Cockburn commented, “We don’t yet have the right balance between the private and commercial interests and rights of individuals, government and commercial entities in relation to the collection and use of health data, so the insights of Professor Kaye will make a valuable contribution to this important contemporary issue in health law.”

Professor Belinda Bennett, Associate Professor Tina Cockburn, Professor Margaret Sheil, Professor Jane Kaye, Professor Dan Hunter, Associate Professor Judith McNamara and Associate Professor Fiona McDonald.

Professor Kaye highlighted how companies, like IBM, Apple, and Google, are becoming drivers of innovation in health care which, in turn, has further implications for setting agendas and priorities. She suggested the need for a greater scrutiny of contracts but also acknowledged that such a solution only focusses on singular transactions rather than addressing broader issues including power imbalances and failures to include individuals in the decision-making process.

Professor Kaye discussed the potential advantages and disadvantages of alternative solutions such as dynamic consent, data dividends and the medical information commons.

Associate Professor Fiona McDonald, Co-Director of ACHLR, commented after the oration.

“Professor Kaye’s presentation highlighted a significant issue: the involvement of private interests in the management and use of intensely personal information and the lack of transparency and accountability for such usages in a connected and globalised world dominated by multi-national companies,” she said.

Watch the presentation here.

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