Employee Benefits

4 Questions About Wellness Privacy

wellness privacy

The wellness industry is experiencing unprecedented growth, reports IBISWorld. By 2020, wellness should be a $12 billion industry as new programs, partnerships and smartphone apps are introduced to help Americans be healthier. While many people are interested in participating in wellness programs, they also are concerned about the privacy of their personal information. Review four questions to ask employers and wellness companies about wellness privacy, as provided by Kaiser Health News.

1. Are wellness programs protected under privacy laws? Wellness services provided under an employers’ group health insurance plan are covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Other programs conducted by outside partners, such as health assessments, may not fall under HIPAA rules, but may be covered by other privacy laws. Ask employers and wellness companies how they protect your personal information and results.

2. Are employee wellness results reported anonymously? Many employees are concerned that personal details and results will be shared with other team members. Even if generic group results are announced, some employees worry that other workers will match results to participants. So ask about how private information is being protected.

3. Will other companies share employee wellness records? Employers may work with outside partners for wellness services, such as collecting and interpreting results, rewarding incentives or developing a smartphone app. Under privacy rules, wellness companies can report generic information about participant results. This information is not protected by HIPAA and it may be possible to use public databases to link results to individuals.

4. Do wellness companies follow privacy rules? Wellness companies recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) are required to follow HIPAA rules. However, there is no oversight to make sure rules are observed. Also, there are hundreds of wellness companies who are not members of the group. Check whether wellness vendors are recognized by the NCQA, and how participant privacy is maintained.