Digital Health Technology

On June 27, 2023, the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) released its final rule (“Final Rule”) implementing penalties for information blocking.

The Final Rule codifies the prohibition on “information blocking” introduced by the 21st Century Cures Act (“Act”), which was enacted on December 13, 2016. In the Act, “information blocking” was defined as any activity that, in part, is “likely to interfere with, prevent, or materially discourage access, exchange, or use” of electronic health information (“EHI”).[1] The Final Rule provides an enforcement process for alleged information blocking violations by health information networks, health information exchanges, and developers of health IT certified by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”). Enforcement of the information blocking penalties will begin on September 1, sixty days after publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.

On March 2, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had reached a $7.8 million settlement with mental health and online counseling platform, BetterHelp, Inc. (“BetterHelp”). The FTC alleged that BetterHelp shared  consumers’ sensitive health data combined with other personal information (PI) with third party advertising platforms without

The onset of the COVID-19 public health emergency (“PHE”) led to a surge in the use of telehealth by health care providers. In addition, the PHE fueled a boom in the number of direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) telehealth platforms, many of which have relied upon COVID-19 regulatory waivers to launch and operate in multiple states across the nation. For the reasons discussed below, DTC telehealth platforms should re-visit their compliance plans and be prepared for increased state and federal regulatory scrutiny.

Contingency management (CM) is a form of intervention treatment program that incentivizes patients with substance use disorders to observe certain conditions—such as non-use of drugs or alcohol confirmed via urine drug screening or breathalyzer test, or even drug therapy adherence—in exchange for something of monetary value.  Adherence is often tracked and confirmed by those that provide the incentive payment through digital health technologies—including apps that can be downloaded to the patient’s smart phone or that are already downloaded to a smart phone provided to the patient as part of a CM program.  While many contend that CM is an effective, evidence-based treatment, certain legal barriers limit, and often prevent, its widespread adoption and use.  When there is the potential for patients to receive items and services payable by Federal health care programs (FHCPs), CM incentives are subject to scrutiny under the Federal anti-kickback statute (AKS) and the Beneficiary Inducements CMP.  A recent advisory opinion issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), approved a digital health company’s offer to provide cash equivalents to patients participating in a CM program.  This favorable result continues to demonstrate OIG’s flexibility notwithstanding regulatory precedent or guidance appearing to the contrary.