Medical Care Companies Use Credit Card Data to Learn About Patient’s Habits

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Medical care companies are using a patient’s credit card data to learn about their personal habits. The purpose of this data collection is to learn about personal habits that may be deemed to be harmful to an individual’s health. For example, if someone is eating too many sweets or drinking too many sodas, their consumer data would expose this and then the hospital or medical insurance company would know that those people might be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The medical care company could then contact that person and tell them to “lay off the sweets.” If someone is not signed up with a gym or exercise program, they could be targeted for encouragement to get off the couch and head out the door for a bit of Zumba that evening.

Carolinas HealthCare System, the largest group of health care clinics in North and South Carolina, are collecting information about credit card purchases from “big data” corporations to learn about what people buy and do in their personal lives. They collect information about what they eat, from which they can ascertain about the individual’s general diet, whether or not they participate in an exercise program, whether they smoke or other activities that can be related to potential health problems.

The Carolinas HealthCare System has information on 2 million people and they have developed algorithms to analyze this data and identify those who have lifestyles that may predict the potential for poor health. In the future, doctors could become reliant on this type of information to offer advice to patients and suggest treatments. A health care company in Pennsylvania also includes household and demographic data in their database to analyze potential health problems in their clientele. Acxiom and LexisNexis are companies that collect data and maintain huge databases on the general public. Presumably these corporations are only selling this data for marketing purposes and not medical care purposes.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) has already enacted laws that are changing how hospitals and others are paid for treating patients. The previous method of payment has been called fee-for-service and the hospital or health care provider are paid after providing a treatment or service, regardless of outcome. However under the new laws the system is changing to an outcome-based fee schedule. If a treated patient’s health is improved after the treatment, then the health care provider will get paid but if, for example, certain blood test values show there is no improvement related to the treatment, then payment will not be made to the health care provider. Another example is a hospital will not be paid for the services and treatments the hospital provided if there are too many hospital re-admissions in a given amount of time.

As this trend develops, the hospitals, doctors and other medical personnel will have high monetary pressure to get patients to do what they want them to do. Readers can only imagine the flurry of concern that might happen at a doctor visit if the patient was discovered to have purchased a pack of cigarettes. A couple of late night runs to Dunkin’ Donuts might create a tornado of criticism and strong suggestions to eat a salad instead. The gathering and use of credit card data to learn about people’s habits will certainly put a strain on many individuals lifestyles, and this stress should be duly noted by the medical care companies when they are implementing their plans because stress is known to be a contributor to ill health. Medical care companies are using a patient’s credit card data to learn about their personal habits

By Margaret Lutze

Communities Digital News
Business Week