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Privacy Week 2023: The Stories We Tell

Author: Michelle McGovern, General Counsel
January 2023

At Verana Health, I’m the General Counsel – but at home, I’m Mom.  

Like many parents, I love to pull out my phone and take pictures of my kids – a seven-year-old son and two-year-old twin daughters. I also love to share these photos on social media – field trips to the carousel, a summer weekend at the beach, a snowball fight in the park near our Brooklyn home. 

As the security community observes Data Privacy Week, I’ve been reflecting on the online life I’m building for my kids. I’m creating a digital footprint of birthdays, craft projects and favorite toys with each detail I share. As they grow, this information will help data analysts understand what they like, or what they might need – whether that’s a new board game or math flashcards.

As much as I love sharing images of my kids’ lives, I never forget that I’m sharing for them. As storyteller, I must also consider how I’m protecting that information. 

During Data Privacy Week at Verana Health, I think about the patients who contribute the data that makes our company run, and I ask myself how I can be the best steward of that data. One of the most meaningful things I do is to ensure that Verana data is anonymized, and that it cannot be linked to individual patients. That it leaves an impression – not a footprint. 

Our data comprises healthcare encounters from more than half a billion patients, in partnership with three specialty medical societies. Every day, our analytics team ingests, harmonizes and curates this data. Once de-identified, it empowers practitioners and life sciences companies as they look to gain valuable insights into previously opaque treatment areas. In partnership with clinical researchers, it can help bring critical therapies to market faster and optimize treatment decisions for different types of patients.  

When I think about data – and the power found in numbers – I also reflect on the individuals whose clinical histories power our work. While their data is anonymized, I think about their experiences, and how each of their healthcare journeys is helping contribute to medical breakthroughs. 

As my kids grow, the moments of their lives that I’ve shared create a digital narrative  that grows richer with time. For three years in a row, my son starts each school year with the same goal – to learn what he needs to become a zookeeper. My daughters move from the Tot Lot to the big kids’ playground, gaining confidence with each passing day. 

At Verana Health, we call this longitudinal data; data with history, and that provides a nuanced picture of a patient’s journey. I think about the clinical stories told by each patient, as well as the stories that could never be contained in a chart, when I come to work each day. 

In the Legal department, this means creating a rigorous framework of policies and procedures that protect data privacy, support our HITRUST certification, and help build a business centered around privacy by design.

It also means tracking privacy laws and industry best practices, and pivoting to meet the changing landscape. As privacy protections become more personalized and complex, Verana Health is in stride, ensuring that our data protection standards keep pace with the best practices in the industry. 

As a leader at Verana Health, Data Privacy Week is a time to celebrate our strong foundation, and to ensure that every colleague feels empowered to speak for the patients whose stories we are telling.