Could Data Broker Information Threaten Physician Prescribing and Professional Behavior?

13 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2015

See all articles by Marco Huesch

Marco Huesch

Duke University - School of Medicine; Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Michael Ong

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Health Services

Barak D. Richman

Duke University - School of Law

Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

Privacy is threatened by the extent of data collected and sold by consumer data brokers. Physicians, as individual consumers, leave a ‘data trail’ in the offline (e.g. through traditional shopping) and online worlds (e.g. through online purchases and use of social media). Such data could easily and legally be used without a physician’s knowledge or consent to influence prescribing practices or other physician professional behavior. We sought to determine the extent to which such consumer data was available on a sample of more than 3,000 physicians, healthcare faculty and healthcare system staff at one university’s health units. Using just work email addresses for these employees we cheaply and quickly obtained external data on nearly two thirds of employees on demographic characteristics (e.g. income, top 10% national wealth, children at home, married), purchases (e.g. baby products, cooking, sports), behavior (e.g. charitable donor, discount shopper) and interests (e.g. automotive, health and wellness). Consumer data brokers have valuable, cost-effective and detailed information on many healthcare professionals, including data that could be used to segment, target, detail and generally market to physicians in ways that seem under‐appreciated. We call for greater attention to this potential aspect of physician-industry relationships.

Keywords: physician privacy

Suggested Citation

Huesch, Marco and Ong, Michael and Richman, Barak D., Could Data Broker Information Threaten Physician Prescribing and Professional Behavior? (June 2015). CESR-Schaeffer Working Paper No. 2015-009; Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Series No. 2015-28. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2623186 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2623186

Marco Huesch (Contact Author)

Duke University - School of Medicine

United States

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

Michael Ong

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Health Services ( email )

United States

Barak D. Richman

Duke University - School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States
919-613-7244 (Phone)
919-613-7231 (Fax)

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