Hospitals mine patient records in search of customers

The USA Today:

Hospitals mine patient records in search of customers

When the oversized postcard arrived last August from Provena St. Joseph Medical Center promoting a lung cancer screening for current or former smokers over 55, Steven Boyd wondered how the hospital had found him.
Boyd, 59, of Joliet, Ill., had smoked for decades, as had his wife, Karol.
Provena didn’t send the mailing to everyone who lived near the hospital, just those who had a stronger likelihood of having smoked based on their age, income, insurance status and other demographic criteria.
The non-profit facility is one of a growing number of hospitals using their patients’ health and financial records to help pitch their most lucrative services, such as cancer, heart and orthopedic care. As part of these direct mail campaigns, they are also buying detailed information about local residents compiled by consumer marketing firms — everything from age, income and marital status to shopping habits and whether residents have children or pets at home.

Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a California-based consumer advocacy group, says he is bothered by efforts to “cherry pick” the best-paying patients.
“When marketing is picking and choosing based on people’s financial status, it is inherently discriminating against patients who have every right and need for medical information,” Heller says. Deven McGraw, director of the health privacy project at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, says federal law allows hospitals to use confidential medical records to keep patients informed about services that may help them.
“You want health providers to communicate to patients about health options that may be beneficial,” McGraw says. “But sometimes this is about generating business for a new piece of equipment that the hospital just bought.”
Using such information for marketing “creeps closer to the line” between what is legal and what is not, she says.

I don’t see anything wrong with a business offering specials, or discounts, or whatever to “valued customers” even though there’s a cringe factor because we’re not used to hospitals doing it.

Target marketing is all this is, everyone does it to some extent, they are just getting more sophisticated apparently in hospitals. Great idea (if privacy is not violated) because it can help the at-risk individual as well as the hospital…except for one thing. When they glean those “customers” (I guess we are no longer “patients”), for their “most lucrative services” who is going to pay the gold-plated bill? Obamacare? HA HA HA.

Hospitals, doctors and health plans (so-called “insurance plans”) all lose when not patients, not doctors, not hospitals, and not even HMO’s have any say whatsoever in what treatments you are entitled to. Be it contraception, or chemotherapy (oops, you’re 71, darn, just over the limit). Instead one arbitrary power has the authority to grant you permission for treatment. The government.

Nationalized healthcare is dehumanizing and unconstitutional. We see this in every nation that has it. A small, non-profit medical center like this one is not seeing the forest for the trees. This will only work in the short-term, not when we have people like Sibelius and Obama deciding who should live and die. They and the AMA should be putting all their energy into repealing Obamacare. As a non-profit they will not have the freedom to set their own standards much longer.

How is this not a violation of patient confidentiality?


My purchases are public information, but I do not believe my medical records are.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit