Medical Devices and Privacy: Surprised?

Electronic medical devices generate data.  The devices in question include

  • CPAP machines (breathing aids)
  • Heart monitors
  • Blood glucose monitors
  • “Lifestyle” monitors including step counters

Patients are routinely asked to give permission for sharing these data, but do you really know what that means?

Yes, a doctor may look at the data. You expect that. They want to know how active you are and how well a therapy is working.

But what about the device manufacturer? Of course they want to make better machines, but could they use the data to sell you upgrades or additional devices?

What about your health insurance company? If you’re not using a device as often as required, might they deny or decrease payments? They may also reclassify you into a higher risk category, meaning higher rates.

With some companies, advertisers can buy data. That means more junk mail and spam.

Some device manufacturers allow consumers to revoke permission for data sharing. That option is mandatory outside the US, but not here. Congress doesn’t provide privacy protections the way other countries do. However, when the option is available, do consumers know about it and use it?

Facts about you get circulated every day among people you have never met. Do you know where and why?


  1. Derek Kravitz and Marshall Allen, “Medical Devices Not Keeping Health Data to Themselves,” Medscape, 28 November 2018.

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