LCMC, Willis-Knighton sued for allegedly using Meta's ad-tracking code to share patient data

New Orleans-based LCMC Health and Shreveport, La.-based Willis-Knighton Health System have been accused of using a tracking code in their websites that shares sensitive patient data without patients' knowledge or consent.

The class-action suit, filed by Herman Herman & Katz, alleges the health systems used the Meta Pixel computer code — created by the company that owns Facebook and Instagram — which potentially analyzed, collected and shared the sensitive medical data of hundreds of thousands of patients. 

The Meta Pixel code narrowly targets users with digital advertisements. When website visitors clicked the "schedule an appointment" button, the code captured health information such as medical conditions, prescriptions, physicians' names and previous appointments and sent it to Facebook, according to the lawsuit. In one case, a woman allegedly received targeted ads about heart disease and joint pain shortly after entering her information into one of the hospital websites.

"We are learning more and more about this shocking breach of trust as our investigation continues," Herman Herman & Katz partner Stephen Herman said in a Feb. 14 news release. "This was a gross invasion of privacy that we believe went on for years."

The lawsuit comes months after an investigative report published by The Markup and Stat News found that 33 of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. — according to Newsweek rankings — were sending sensitive patient data to Meta via the Pixel tracking tool.

Willis-Knighton is a four-hospital system in northwest Louisiana. LCMC recently acquired three hospitals from Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, bringing its hospitals to a total of nine.

"LCMC Health is deeply committed to patient privacy and takes any implication that data has been shared inappropriately with the utmost urgency," the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's Hospital Review. "We are aware of the pending lawsuit and intend to defend LCMC Health vigorously against the plaintiffs' claims."

An attorney representing Willis-Knighton shared the following statement with Becker's: "Willis-Knighton is one of many hospitals throughout the nation (including Louisiana) who have recently been sued regarding the very common use of digital media marketing tools. While we do not comment on ongoing litigation, Willis-Knighton is committed to protecting the privacy of those who communicate with us on a digital platform."

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