Some hospitals using consumer data to assess patient risk

Some hospitals and providers use consumer data to identify--and intervene with--the patients most likely to have health problems, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Hospitals can use data from public records and credit card purchases to analyze the food patients buy and whether they smoke. Carolinas HealthCare System, which operates more than 900 facilities in North and South Carolina, uses data from credit card or store loyalty card transactions to create predictive models that assign patients a risk score, Michael Dulin, the system's director of research and evidence-based medicine, told Bloomberg. Over the next two years, doctors and nurses will regularly receive those score, and can touch base with the patients regarding health risks.

For example, Dulin said, hospitals would score the likelihood of an asthmatic patient being admitted to the emergency room based on whether they refill a prescription, buy cigarettes or live in an area with a high pollen count. Similarly, a patient's risk for heart attacks would incorporate information such as what kind of foods they buy or whether or not they belong to a gym. Although Carolinas HealthCare can disclose patients' risk scores to their doctors, the hospital's contract with its data provider forbids it to disclose details such as specific transactions, according to the article.

Patients, however, say such measures threaten patient privacy and the doctor-patient relationship. "It is one thing to have a number I can call if I have a problem or question, it is another thing to get unsolicited phone calls. I don't like that," Jorjanne Murry, an accountant in Charlotte, North Carolina, who has Type 1 diabetes, told BusinessWeek. "I think it is intrusive."

Despite the controversy over this data use, using data analytics programs to improve patient health and outcomes is a major boost to accountable care organizations, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

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