The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a final order resolving its complaint against Practice Fusion for its deception of patients regarding online physician reviews, it announced Tuesday.
The FTC had charged that Practice Fusion misled consumers in violation of the FTC Act by soliciting reviews about doctors related to an online healthcare satisfaction survey without adequately disclosing that the reviews would be posted publicly on the internet. The vendor had launched a public healthcare provider directory; to collect patient reviews, it began sending emails to patients of providers who use Practice Fusion’s ambulatory EHR system. However, since it appeared that the emails were being sent by the doctors themselves and would remain private, patients submitted sensitive personal and medical information, which ended up publicly disclosed.
The proposed settlement was announced in June, affording people the opportunity to comment; the FTC adopted the proposed settlement without modification.
The settlement prohibits Practice Fusion from making deceptive statements about the extent it uses, maintains and protects the privacy and confidentiality of the information it collects. It also must disclose the fact that patient information collected will be publicly available and obtain “affirmative express consent” before posting it. It is also barred from displaying the reviews it collecting during the time period covered by the FTC’s complaint.
The FTC’s vote was unanimous, 3-0.
If Practice Fusion violates the order, it would be liable for penalties of up to $40,000 per violation.
The FTC takes consumer deception very seriously. It noted in a response letter to a comment that “[a]s is the case with all Commission orders, Commission staff will closely monitor Practice Fusion’s conduct to determine whether any violations occur.”
To learn more:
- read the FTC’s announcement