On 6 February 2019, the President of the UAE issued Federal Law No. 2 of 2019 (the Law) which regulates the use of information technology and communications (ITC) in the healthcare sector. This eagerly anticipated Law:
aims to raise the minimum bar for protection of health data and to introduce certain concepts which are on a par with best international practice in information law;
continues the legislative trend towards localization of sensitive categories of data; and
paves the way for centralized health data capture and analysis to support public health initiatives conducted by the UAE Ministry of Health.
The scope of the Law is broad - it regulates the processing of all electronic health data regardless of its form, including names of patients, information collected during consultation, diagnosis and treatment, alpha-numerical patient identifiers, common procedural technology (CPT) codes, images produced by medical imaging technology, and lab results among other types of data.
The Law formalizes the longtime informal regulatory policy that health data must be processed and stored inside the UAE. Critically it provides that such data may not be transferred outside of the UAE, except where an exception is issued by the relevant health authority. The Law also prohibits the creation of health data outside of the UAE which relates to health services provided inside the UAE. Accordingly, cloud solutions hosted out of country, outsourcing of IT services to overseas locations, remote IT support from other departments within multi-national Healthcare Service Providers and remote collection and monitoring of patient information within the UAE, such as heart rate, sleep patterns, or steps walked, from outside the UAE through apps and wearables may be significantly impacted.
The Law envisages certain exceptions to the default data localization requirements. These will be set out in subsequent ministerial resolutions or the implementing regulations.
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