Personal injury attorneys testing ads to patients in the ER: 5 things to know

Some personal injury law firms are targeting online ads to patients in healthcare settings such as emergency rooms, chiropractors' offices and pain clinics, according to NPR.

Here are five things to know about the issue:

1. The online ads are sent to patients via a technology known as geofencing. This technology allows personal injury law firms to see when a person is seeking care in a particular healthcare location using the person's "phone ID," according to the report. It has also been used in the retail industry to target ads to shoppers.

2. Bill Kakis, who runs the Long Island, N.Y.-based firm Tell All Digital, told NPR using the technology in a healthcare setting is "the closest thing an attorney can do to putting a digital kiosk inside of an emergency room."

3. While Mr. Kakis has called geofencing "totally legit," others, such as Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, have raised concerns about patient privacy, according to the report. Ms. Healey, whose office has targeted geofencing in healthcare settings, told NPR: "Private medical information should not be exploited in this way. Especially when it's gathered secretly without a consumer's knowledge, without knowledge or consent."

4. Bill McGeveran, an attorney and law professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said while prosecutors like Ms. Healey can try using state consumer protection laws to target the technology, the federal HIPAA law would not apply to these particular types of mobile ads. He told NPR this is because HIPAA "applies to hospitals and clinics and doctors and insurance companies, not to the lawyers and the marketers working on their behalf."

5. NPR reached out to several personal injury law firms in Philadelphia for comment about their advertising strategies, but none returned calls and emails.

Read NPR's full report here.


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