Hospitals mine – and aggregate – patient records in search of customers

Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News reports:

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.

Read more on USA Today.

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