Providers Using Data Brokers to Identify High-Risk Patients

Patients aren't always willing to disclose sensitive physical health information to providers, but now some providers are accessing information from data brokers to identify those who may be high-risk, according to a Bloomberg report.

Data brokers compile information on consumers' public records and credit card transactions, including where they shop and eat and whether or not they smoke. Providers are taking advantage of this information and creating algorithms to determine high-risk patients and potentially intervene before the patients become ill or develop conditions, according to the report.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Carolinas HealthCare System and Pittsburgh-based UPMC are two such organizations, though UPMC uses demographic and household information instead of credit card spending details, according to the report.

Michael Dulin, MD, PhD, chief clinical officer for analytics and outcomes at Carolinas HealthCare System said in the report the health system can determine risk scores for patients and determine the probability of a person having a heart attack, for example, based on the food they buy and if they have a gym membership. The risk scores can help determine the likelihood of a patient with asthma coming to the emergency department by seeing if the patient has filled their asthma medication and/or if the patient smokes, he said in the report.

"What we are looking to find are people before they end up in trouble. The idea is to use big data and predictive models to think about population health and drill down to the individual levels to find someone running into trouble that we can reach out to and try to help out," Dr. Dulin said in the report.

However, some patients are not thrilled about the prospect of providers accessing their personal spending and living habits, calling the idea creepy and overbearing. Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara (Calif.) University said using data brokers' information in such a way is "very paternalistic toward individuals" and it looks at patients "as simply the sum of data points about them," according to the report.

More Articles on Data Security:

How Data Leaks Are Compromising Hospitals’ Medical Devices
FTC Urges Legislation to Make Data Brokers More Transparent, Emphasizes Healthcare
Castlight Health Shows Off Big Data Abilities With New Analysis of Regional Healthcare Costs


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