ONC to gauge consumer opinions on mobile health privacy, security

By: Neil Versel | Nov 2, 2011        

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ONC's Dr. Farzad Mostashari

ONC National Health IT Coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is conducting a series of focus groups to gauge consumer opinion on privacy and security of mobile health technologies.

ONC’s Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, which is running the focus groups, is looking to “explore the attitudes and preferences of a diverse sample of consumers with respect to the communication of health related information on mobile phones and devices, including text messaging,” according to a brief listing on a page of HHS “Text4Health” projects. The plan is part of the Obama administration’s “open government initiative.”

In a widely distributed email sent out this week, ONC said it would employ a “a qualitative data collection approach to obtain in-depth information from mHealth users regarding privacy and security concerns with this technology and perspectives on potential safeguards.” The office specifically mentioned Skype as an example of mobile communication of health information in a list that also included text messaging, on-the-go email access and downloaded apps.

Research will span multiple populations across the country, according to the email. ONC provided few additional details other than saying it would make results of its research available sometime next year.

The public contact for the project is ONC Chief Privacy Officer Joy Pritts. She can be reached at joy.pritts@hhs.gov.