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On April 18, 2017, MDLive, an innovative telehealth provider located in Sunrise, Florida, was hit with a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in south Florida. MDLive is a privately held company which was founded in 2009 and raised $23.6 million dollars from investors in 2015 alone. MDLive has been praised as the first company to offer telepsychiatry and other mental health services across the United States. This network of online healthcare professionals is said to consist of more than 1,300 behavioral health practitioners. However, the lawsuit filed against them alleges that this virtual healthcare provider has not been acting appropriately when it comes to keeping up with patient privacy requirements and failed to appropriately restrict third party access to private health information.

At the root of this lawsuit are claims that MDLive violated patient privacy rights by sharing detailed patient health information with a third party without patient consent. Test Fairy, an Israel-based tech company, was allegedly provided with the personal patient information of the individuals involved in this action in order to test and resolve bugs in MDLive’s mobile application. The suit alleges that MDLive initially takes up to 60 screenshots of the application, all containing patient health information, within the first 15 minutes that a user is logged on. These images are then sent to Test Fairy and affiliated developers and designers. Users claim that they believed their information was to be reviewed solely by the physicians that they have chosen to entrust with this information.

Telehealth involves technologies and tactics that are used to deliver virtual medical, health, and educational services to individuals. This class action suit has not been the first instance that the incorporation of telehealth services has raised privacy concerns.  In 2016, as a result of growing concerns that telehealth was not restricted enough, the American Medical Association issued guidelines to try and help physicians to better understand how to ethically use these services. The many members of this action seem to be troubled by the use of their own private and personal medical information, and the alleged unethical use of the patient information in general. One of the plaintiffs named in the suit, Joan Richards, who used the app and resides in Utah, is seeking $5 million dollars in damages.

Just this past Wednesday, MDLive was pressed for a comment on the pending situation and lawsuit and they declined to respond. This action is very recent, meaning its findings could implicate the future of telehealth services and how they are approached. Patient privacy is of great importance to many people. Nevertheless, the allegations in this suit are still just that and must be proven in federal court in order to see how this issue will further unravel.

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