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A REVIEW OF HALAXY (HEALTHKIT)

HALAXY VS POWER DIARY

There are some important differences about Halaxy (formerly HealthKit) that we want to bring to the attention of health practitioners.

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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.

Halaxy’s Privacy Policies Are Different. Very Different.

Before we dive in, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Halaxy is a competitor of Power Diary. To avoid accusations that we’re interpreting their Privacy Policy (PP) in an out-of-context manner, we’ve attached full copies of Halaxy’s Privacy Policy (printed from their website on 13th June 2022) so you can review these directly, and form your own view.

Furthermore, we’re highlighting Halaxy’s 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
  • Coreplus
  • Front Desk
  • Zedmed
  • Best Practice
  • Genie
  • Janeapp
  • Cliniko
  • TM2 / TM3
  • PPMS
  • PracticePal
  • Writeupp

So What’s Actually in Halaxy’s Privacy Policy?

Halaxy’s Privacy Policy starts out with a fairly standard introduction and reinforces the notion that by providing Personal Information, you consent to Halaxy using it in the manner described in that policy. This is all pretty normal boring stuff.

Data Collected

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, description of the service…;
  • …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

Halaxy’s Privacy Policy then outlines the full range of permitted purposes that it can use and/or disclose the Personal Information entered into its system. Among the standard uses that might be expected, a number of purposes are included that we think neither practitioners nor patients would reasonably expect or knowingly consent to. This includes:

  • “…conduct research or compile analyse statistics relevant to health or safety;
  • “”to prepare aggregate reports for current or future advertisers, sponsors or other parties…”;
  • “to send you marketing and promotional messages…sent by…our business partners…”.

You can see a more complete range in this screenshot here:

In other words, Halaxy’s Privacy Policy appears to give it permission to access, use and disclose individually identifiable medical information that has been entered into its system for purposes that include medical research, marketing, advertising or other commercial activities. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any requirement for Halaxy to notify practitioners or patients when data is used for these purposes, who patient data has been provided to, or any mechanisms for practitioners or patients to prevent the further use of their data once it has been provided to third parties.

What About Patient Consent? Who Is Responsible?

To understand this we need to look at Halaxy’s overall Privacy Policy.

The clearest answer to the consent question appears to be contained in the section ‘Information of another individual‘:

“…you must take reasonable steps to ensure the individual concerned is aware of and/or consents to the various matters detailed in this Privacy Policy…”

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 health data, and you have obtained patient’s consent for this.

This appears to be further emphasised in Halaxy’s Privacy Policy where it states that if you are using Halaxy and providing information to it about someone else i.e. entering patient treatment information, “you must ensure that you are authorised to disclose that information to us and that without us taking any further steps… we may collect, use and disclose such information for the purposes described in this Privacy Policy.”

Whilst there are also circumstances where patients can provide consent to Halaxy’s Privacy Policy directly, i.e if they were to register directly on the system, it would appear that failing this, it is the practitioner who enters patient data into Halaxy that is attesting to the fact that they have obtained their patients’ consent for Halaxy’s subsequent use of their data.

Is Halaxy Different From Other PMS Providers?

In our view, Halaxy cannot be compared to other practice management systems due to their differences in their Privacy Policy and pricing structures.

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.

Data Use:
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.

Halaxy’s Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy and it’s pricing model indicate a very different approach:

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?

First of all, read Halaxy’s full Privacy Policy and decide for yourself whether they meet your expectations and the expectations of your patients. If you’re not sure about any element seek the opinion of a legal professional who specialises in health and follows their advice.

FAQ’s

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?

While it’s true that Power Diary operates in a competitive environment, we actually list our key competitors at the top of this article that, in our view, do not raise the same Privacy Policy concerns as Halaxy. We do this to make it clear that if someone is concerned about Halaxy’s Privacy Policies, there are many other alternative Practice Management Systems to choose from, not just Power Diary.

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.

Whilst we are pleased to hear Halaxy’s claims that they are not using client data for marketing purposes, we will remain very concerned until Halaxy updates their official Privacy Policy and Terms of Use to remove these allowed uses. If there is truly no intention for Halaxy to ever use client data for marketing or other commercial purposes, it is baffling as to why they would not simply update these policies to reflect this.

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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