The Role of Telehealth and Privacy in the Trump Era

February 17, 2017

Telehealth, the use of telecommunication technologies to promote health care interactions, education, and administration, has been focused on lately by the media. The technology involved includes the internet, streaming, and even apps for smart phones. Due to the recent changes in the White House, there has been some pushback by the public, with many wondering: what will a Trump presidency mean for digital health? Due to the possibility of changes in both the Affordable Care Act, many are also wondering how Tom Price, the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will rule on the privacy law, HIPPA. These issues are important, because with the questioning of the new administration comes widespread public attention on healthcare and HIPPA.
Following President Trump’s election and subsequent inauguration in January, companies began to push back. One in particular is Nurx, an on-demand birth control delivery app available for smart phones. Nurx is only certified in a handful of states, but in those states, it is reported that they are HIPPA compliant. Through the app, it is simple to remotely get birth control. First, the user signs up, fills in the standard questionarre (which includes questions that a regular doctor or health practitioner would ask), and picks the brand of birth control that they would like. Second, actual doctors review the order and write the prescription. Finally, the birth control is delivered to the user.
Clearly, Nurx is an interesting and possibly controversial form of telehealth; anyone that fills out the questionairre and is approved by a doctor can get birth control, no questions asked. And while much of America (an estimated 89% of all Americans) think that birth control is morally acceptable, there is a small percentage of the public that does not support freely available birth control. Following their initial splash when they were unveiled in the app store, Nurx made more headlines when in January, they launched a controversial ad campaign. They posted a picture of someone looking awfully close to President Trump documenting his New Year’s Resolutions: Make America Great Again, Repeal Obamacare, Control women’s bodies, and Tweet about it. But that’s not all: under the image, Nurx offered $45 in credits for new users, but only if they used the promo code TINYHANDS. This clearly shows the fear that the Trump administration will reduce access to birth control, echoing the question that many Americans have: what will happen to healthcare and privacy in the next four years?
In addition to telehealth availability concerns, there is also a question of what will happen to privacy standards regarding telehealth. The Office for Civil Rights and the Office for the National Coordinator of Health IT have provided guideance for the public on how to comply with HIPPA. The question now is, will the offices continue doing this, as the healthcare industry continues to change?

Like or dislike the new President and Republican administration, there are many changes coming to healthcare, and right now, all we can do is guess how this will impact telehealth and privacy laws.