OPINION: Florida counties should not be forcing parents to follow Aktivate

Counties have implemented a new third-party software that parents should be able to opt out of. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Florida counties such as Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach and Sarasota have implemented a new digital third-party system that stores medical information for the 2022-23 school year, according to an Oct. 4 Fortune article

Keeping up with student health is a positive thing. However, schools using Aktivate are now wrongfully forcing parents who disagree with the software to submit private medical records in order for students to participate in sports. Instead, schools should allow parents to choose how their medical information is stored.

Middle and high schools require health forms to make sure their athletes are healthy enough to play. Counties like Broward, Palm Beach and Sarasota are making the switch to use Aktivate, an online software that just started in 2021. Hillsborough has yet to fully make the switch.

When asked for a comment, USF Health said it doesn’t use Aktivate. Instead, it simply has students submit medical records.

“It could be easier for schools to use Aktivate in order to store all the data in one area, especially when they don’t have clinics,” the department stated in an Oct. 6 interview with The Oracle.

Using Aktivate is not the best way to go about storing data, according to USF Health. Other experts have issues with the system as well.

“To have this digitized makes it a bigger concern because it is private medical information,” Dr Thresia Gambon, a pediatrician, stated during an Oct. 6 interview with NBC news.

Using Aktivate creates a risk of personal medical information being under cyber attacks because it is a website. Although, using a filing system that has always been used ensures security by keeping records at the school.

In order for students to play, they are required to submit forms to Aktivate.

“Parents are obligated to agree to the terms and conditions by this third party, not the school district,” a nurse said during an Aug. 17 Palm Beach school board meeting.

Aktivate does not follow HIPAA guidelines, instead it follows FERPA — a law to keep educational records secure and allows parents to have rightful control over records. It protects all things related to student records, including health information.

HIPAA is a law put in place to keep medical records secure. This standard helps maintain privacy between the patient and medical provider. Aktivate does not have to follow HIPAA since it is not classified as a medicare provider.

Some parents feel as though they’re out of the loop, and that Aktivate provides no transparency to hold this third-party system accountable.

“[The] most concerning thing as a parent is that this is a process that does not include parents at all,” a mother said during an Aug. 17 Palm Beach County school board meeting.

“I feel you’re coercing parents into an agreement with a third-party vendor whose terms and policies I did not agree with. Your policy violates my child’s personal medical data and I do not agree nor consent. And you’re violating a minor with their private information.”

Parents feel like they are backed into a corner. They feel uncomfortable having a third party hold their children’s information instead of submitting information directly to a medical provider.

Keeping track of student health has always been a positive step for schools. Choosing to use Aktivate which does not follow HIPAA and is less secure software is not the way to go about it.

Schools are forcing parents who are uncomfortable with Aktivate to use it, eliminating any other options. The school boards should instead allow parents to choose whether their child’s information is stored on file or through Aktivate.