Hospitals snooping on your shopping and eating

click to enlargeAnother charming use for Big Bad Data. Hospitals are investigating whether available data on patients–prospective and current–on shopping patterns and other purchase behavior such as gym memberships can be used to predict patient risk of disease. Leading the way is Carolinas HealthCare System, which operates the largest group of medical centers in North and South Carolina. With more than 900 care centers including nursing homes, they have 2 million patients to analyze for risk, using data points such as purchases a patient has made using a credit card or store loyalty card, to create predictive models on patient risk and eventually to reach out to patients. Of course this data crunching  has a purpose, and that is to meet quality metrics imposed by HHS and CMS. The goal would be to change the risk curve by changing patterns of personal behavior which could lead to poor health, expensive chronic conditions and hospitalizations.

Of course the downside is the ‘creepiness factor’. The reality is even ‘nudging’ and calls from a person’s doctor may not change much, because the messages can be disregarded unless they are positioned correctly over time. “The strategy “is very paternalistic toward individuals, inclined to see human beings as simply the sum of data points about them,” Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, said in a telephone interview.” Will this data be any more secure than health data has proven to be? Is this just another initiative that stresses an over-burdened HIT team with other fires to put out? Your guess is as good as mine.  Your Doctor Knows You’re Killing Yourself. The Data Brokers Told Her (Bloomberg.com) Hat tip to reader, past contributor and data analytics crunchaholic Sarianne Gruber.

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