In today’s world, our sensitive personal information has become increasingly vulnerable to exposure. Privacy is an essential human right, and our health data deserves even more protection. Emphasizing the same, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Lisa Murkowski recently introduced the UPHOLD (Useful Practical Helpful and Innovative Designs Led to Privacy) Privacy Act. The act seeks to expand health data privacy protections under current laws such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act).

The UPHOLD Privacy Act states that every individual has a right to the privacy of their health information, and that their sensitive personal data can be accessed and utilized only in certain circumstances. For instance, health information can be used for providing medical treatment, for ensuring public health and safety, and for research purposes only with the patient’s consent. Additionally, the act requires that companies sharing health information must provide a clear notice to the patient, asking for their explicit consent. This regulation will ensure that patients have better control over their medical information and prevent unauthorized uses of their data.

The act will also require that companies gathering such data must provide an easily readable and understandable policy for using and sharing health information. Furthermore, the patients must have the right to request access, deletion, and correction of their information. The UPHOLD Privacy Act thus ensures that patients have full control over their health data, and the companies gathering such data should work diligently with the patients to handle their sensitive information properly.

The UPHOLD Privacy Act also seeks to expand the liability of businesses and organizations that violate patient privacy rights. Under this act, the affected individuals will be able to sue the company or organization for damages. The UPHOLD Privacy Act imposes multiple penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and revocation of licenses, on entities that fail to comply with the act’s regulations.

The UPHOLD Privacy Act addresses concerns surrounding the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for healthcare purposes that have raised questions about patient privacy. The act specifies that AI output and algorithmic decision-making processes used in healthcare must meet the requirements of accuracy, transparency, and non-discrimination while ensuring that individuals’ privacy is safeguarded. The act also calls for the establishment of a technical committee that will be responsible for considering the challenges such as biases, data errors, and data breaches in the use of AI in healthcare settings.

To ensure the privacy of health information is protected during emergencies, the UPHOLD Privacy Act considers that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can bypass some of the consent requirements when it comes to sharing health data during a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This provision promotes better public health and safety while ensuring that patient privacy remains a high priority.

The UPHOLD Privacy Act proposes amending the current FTC Act, which states that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lacks the power to unleash financial penalties on specific entities for unfair or deceptive practices. The amendment to the act proposes establishing civil penalties for each violation of patient privacy, including up to $42,530 per violation. This financial penalty can be significant and provide companies and organizations with the necessary impetus for protecting and securing patient health data.

In conclusion, personal health information is highly sensitive and personal, and the UPHOLD Privacy Act will ensure that patients’ privacy rights are respected while promoting better public health and safety. The UPHOLD Privacy Act calls for necessary regulations that are required to secure and protect patients’ personal health information while recognizing the importance of utilizing healthcare data for research and public health purposes. By doing so, it engenders trust and confidence in the healthcare system, which is essential for fulfilling the responsibility of all stakeholders involved.