Apple seeks lawyer with HIPAA expertise for health initiative

in General Discussion edited May 2016
An Apple job listing on Monday reveals the company is looking to hire a seasoned attorney with health privacy expertise to take on the role of Privacy Counsel , suggesting a health and medical systems expansion could be in the works.

As described in Apple's listing, the Privacy Counsel will be tasked with handling privacy issues impacting the tech company's health strategy, specifically those that relate to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Currently, the extent to which Apple participates in the medical industry is limited to unregulated iOS software and Apple Watch, but rumors of a more concerted effort have persisted for years. The new position suggests a major health strategy might launch sooner rather than later.

Business Insider reported on the job listing earlier today.

The person who gets the job will interface directly with Apple's business and engineering teams to create privacy solutions for the company's various product lines, the ad says. Along with private sector legal issues, the position advises on regulatory matters, hinting the company is developing, or plans to develop, tech that falls within the purview of government agencies.

Specifically, the position entails work on privacy by design reviews and projects, assistance with privacy complaints and breaches, support for compliance and auditing frameworks, advisory over privacy aspects of licensing and procurement deals and corporate acquisitions, and assistance with policy drafting regarding privacy laws, the ad says.

Ideal applicants must have five to nine years of experience as an associate at a top-tier law firm or business, as well as CIPP (Certified Information Privacy Professional) certification.

Apple's interest in the health sector began years ago. As detailed in a report earlier this month, late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs challenged his company to find a solution to what he considered a disjointed healthcare system. During his long bout with pancreatic cancer, Jobs discovered a data gap between patients and healthcare professionals, a problem he felt could be addressed through technology developed by Apple.

Work on the project culminated in the HealthKit and ResearchKit frameworks in 2014, and most visibly as a hardware offering in Apple Watch. Most recently, CareKit was released in April as an open framework on which developers can build easy to use software for tracking, managing and reporting medical conditions.

Apple's first-party iOS frameworks interface and aggregate data from regulated medical devices like blood pressure monitors, glucose meters and other equipment, though the company has yet to dabble in branded medical hardware, at least not publicly. According to reports last year, Apple scrapped advanced Apple Watch health monitoring features due in part to prohibitive regulatory hurdles.

This week's job listing, however, reveals a renewed effort in the field. Just today, CEO Tim Cook hinted at advanced health applications for Apple Watch, features that would require privacy safeguards.

"The holy grail of the watch is being able to monitor more and more of what's going on in your body," Cook said at the Startup Fest Europe in Amsterdam. "If you could have a device that knew so much about you, it would be incredible, and would extend life and extend quality. I'm not saying one device will do all of that."


  • Reply 1 of 6
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    Fitbit is getting sued over its allegedly inaccurate heart rate monitor. Once you get past pedometers and heart rate monitors (blood pressure, oxygen, glucose testing, etc) you’re headed toward full fledged medical devices that will need intensive testing and FDA approval. This will also open up a whole new legal minefield area for Apple. HIPPA will be least of their worries.
  • Reply 2 of 6
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    The second or third gen Watch should be a "must have" item once real health monitoring functionality is fine tuned and battery life continues to improve.
    edited May 2016
  • Reply 3 of 6
    latifbplatifbp Posts: 544member
    HIPAA is actually pretty simple. It is about making Health Information portable. Sharing simply requires authorization from the patient. I'm guessing all they would need is for the owner to opt in (maybe even a simple toggle or electronic signature. The lawyer probably would be tasked to write up the legalese that none of us ever read, but it just needs to be there.
  • Reply 4 of 6
    jmc54jmc54 Posts: 207member
    Would love to see iMessage HIPPA compliant! Would make my job much easier!
  • Reply 5 of 6
    waterrocketswaterrockets Posts: 1,231member
    The second or third gen Watch should be a "must have" item once real health monitoring functionality is fine tuned and battery life continues to improve.
    Yeah, this is a potentially huge benefit to the health of users over the long term. Especially if MDs can start to analyze years of continuous data.

    Great move by Apple here.
  • Reply 6 of 6
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,945member
    One of the first steps will be making Apple Cloud services compliant. I don't know why Apple resists signing a BAA which is required if any health provider wishes to legally store any patient data on Apple's servers. Dropbox too refused for quite some time but finally does offer a BAA. Many other cloud providers too such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon (with a bit of work) do offer them and are therefor HIPAA-compliant.

    edited May 2016 singularity
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