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Choosing the right practice management software for your clinic can be a difficult and confusing decision. To help make the decision a little easier, we periodically review competitor systems and compare different aspects of them to Power Diary. When doing this, we ask ourselves:
What is the most important and helpful information people need to know about the differences between system X and us? Usually this comes down to different features, usability, costs, security, reliability etc.
Not in Halaxy’s case.
There are concerning differences in how Halaxy can use your clients’ health data.
Furthermore we’re highlighting Halaxy’s TOU and PP because they contain clauses we think most practitioners and patients would not expect. In fact we haven’t found clauses like Halaxy’s in any other commonly used competitors in the marketplace including:
- Medical Director
- Front Desk
- Best Practice
- TM2 / TM3
It then goes on to list the type of personal information Halaxy may collect. Again this list is fairly standard for a Practice Management System, however it’s important to note that the personal information collected may include health information entered into Halaxy by a patient or practitioner, including:
- “..the treatment you have received…;
- …service type, service description…;
- …which practitioner treated you…;
- …test results…;
- …current and past medical history”.
This becomes particularly relevant when we look at Halaxy’s permitted purposes of use which they detail next.
Permitted Purposes of Use
- “…conduct research and for advertising and marketing”;
- “for medical research purposes, including providing this information to third parties for this purpose”;
- “to send you marketing and promotional messages…sent by…our business partners”.
You can see a more complete range in this screenshot here:
What about patient consent? Who is responsible?
To understand this we need to look at Halaxy’s overall Terms and Conditions which can be found here: https://halaxy.com/article/terms.
The clearest answer to the consent question appears to be contained in the section Practitioner Specific Clauses, Section 5. General Obligations where it states that you (the practitioner) warrant to Halaxy:
Put simply, this appears to indicate that if you’re a practitioner using Halaxy, you agree that you have made your patients aware of how Halaxy can use patient’s health data, and you have obtained patient’s consent for this.
Is Halaxy different to other PMS providers?
In our review of Practice Management Systems, we found that nearly all systems, including Power Diary, operate something like this:
Fees for Extras:
Additional fees typically apply for extras such as SMS use, payment processing etc.
Patient health data entered is considered to be the exclusive property of the practice. It is only used by the PMS in a manner you’d reasonably expect as part of operating a Practice Management System. The Privacy Policies do not allow accessing or using patient data for other commercial or research purposes.
Fees for Extras:
Fees apply for extras such as SMS use, payment processing etc.
“If you don’t pay for a product, you are the product”
Providing services or software for free in exchange for people’s personal data is not new, and not necessarily a bad thing. It comes down to people making an informed decision. Most people use free services like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and understand their data is used for advertising and other purposes.
Halaxy advise users they “are building the largest, most unique health longitudinal datasets in the world” and that by using Halaxy they’re “contributing” in exchange for “access” to the system.
In our view this does not make it clear enough that Halaxy can use and disclose patient data for a much wider range of uses. Furthermore, the onus of gaining consent for that data use primarily lies with the practitioner.
Concerned – What should you do?
Since we published this article we’ve had a number of interesting questions asked. So we wanted to address them as follows:
Is this just an attack on a competitor?
With other competitors, Power Diary takes the time to compare features and prices so that health practices can make a more informed decision. However, in the case of Halaxy, we are so concerned about the potential issues with data use, that we no longer include comparisons of their features or pricing. We think that doing this implies that Halaxy is just like any other system when in our view, it is vastly different.
We’re hoping that Halaxy will improve their policies and approach to data security and privacy. Should this happen we will be happy to update the information here.
Why not take this up with AHPRA or other governing bodies?
These bodies don’t regulate practice management system companies – they regulate practitioners. They set guidelines for choosing suitable software systems, but full responsibility lies with the practitioners to select software that meets their requirements.
Halaxy have assured me that everything is fine. Do I still need to worry?
Use of Client Data for Marketing:
We’ve had several practitioners stating that they’ve been in contact with Halaxy and have been advised that their client data is not being used for marketing purposes. Concerningly, in their responses, Halaxy has also cited scenarios where practitioners would normally expect data to be shared (i.e. use of an integration) to justify clauses that allow the provision of data to third parties for much broader purposes.
Use of Client Data for Research:
It is also notable that in their responses to practitioners that Halaxy does not appear to address the concerns raised in this article regarding the use of client data for medical research purposes. Whilst there are of course many noble research projects with high ethical standards, there are also many more for-profit medical research projects with commercial objectives. Halaxy’s policies do not limit or specify the types of research that clients’ data can be used for. But more importantly, if clients are to participate in any medical research, they should be giving their individual, explicit, and informed consent for this. And the onus of this responsibility should not fall to practitioners (as it does currently according to Halaxy’s policies).
We’ll continue to update this article with any commonly asked or interesting questions that we come across.
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