This blog is totally independent, unpaid and has only three major objectives.
The first is to inform readers of news and happenings in the e-Health domain, both here in Australia and world-wide.
The second is to provide commentary on e-Health in Australia and to foster improvement where I can.
The third is to encourage discussion of the matters raised in the blog so hopefully readers can get a balanced view of what is really happening and what successes are being achieved.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
It Seems Some Pharmacists Are Collecting Money For Patients Prescription Information And Not Telling Their Patients.
SOME chemists are selling their patients prescription information to a global health information company which sells it on to pharmaceutical companies trying to boost their sales.
Doctor and consumer groups have expressed outrage about the practice they fear may impinge on patient privacy.
After News Corp drew the Department of Health’s attention to the profit making venture it asked the Privacy Commissioner to investigate.
The Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim warned chemists against a similar prescription data for profit arrangement in 2013 that involved linking doctors names to the data.
“I am concerned about whether pharmacies will be complying with their obligations under the Privacy Act should collection activities commence,” he told the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
While the name the doctor scheme did not go ahead the Australian general manager of health information giant IMS, Andrew Sutton has confirmed his company is collecting patients prescription data.
“We do have arrangements with pharmacists to get prescription information,” Mr Sutton told News Corp.
“The purpose is to help us understand how patients and doctors are using medicine in the real world to help our clients, primarily pharmaceutical companies, to get market aligned outcomes,” he said.
Mr Sutton says the information is “all fully encrypted and the anonymous information is not linked to physicians or patients,” he told News Corp.
Mr Sutton said he could not reveal how much chemists were making for selling the information to his company.
“It’s in the hundreds of dollars at a pharmacy level,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Privacy Commissioner said he had not been informed about the latest arrangement with IMS.
“We requested IMS Health to advise the Office of the Australian Information Commisisoner if it recommenced this program. We have not received any information from IMS Health about the recommencement of this program,” the spokesman said.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says it has no involvement with the IMS arrangement and its policy on data collection by thrid parties tells chemists:
“No third party should have access to consumer data unless it is de-identified and for a clear and approved purpose that complies with privacy laws and other relevant standards”.
Lots more (with colourful pictures) is found here:
1. Big Pharma would not be paying for this information if it was not very valuable to them.
2. Lots of studies have shown that anonymised data mostly isn’t - especially using advanced data mining techniques.
3. Not alerting patients to the harvesting of their data is just unethical - that is totally clear cut in my view.
So much for all the claims of Pharmacists being such perfect professionals that they deserve not to have the real world of deregulation start to bring them into the 21st Century via the Harper Review. I am not sure we see many other clinicians selling their patient information without individual consent and ethics review - if indeed any of them sell patient informationat all.
It is interesting the same issue is live in the UK at the same time and has now been scuppered!
According to the Mail, names and addresses of people who requested online consultations through the site, and who used Pharmacy 2U “to place their GP prescriptions and have them delivered to their home address”, were passed on.
Pharmacy 2U says on its website that it has “provided a convenient NHS mail-order repeat prescription service for more than a decade.”
Patients can also “nominate” the pharmacy as part of the Electronic Prescription Service Release 2 which is finally rolling out across the country, and which is destined to become the centre-piece of a new “click and collect” or “click and deliver” service in the future.
In a statement to EHI News, Pharmacy2U said the allegations related to a two-month trial project at the end of last year that involved the sale of customers’ names and postal addresses for use in selected marketing activity.
“Data was only shared where there was patient consent,” said the company. “No medical information, emails or telephone numbers were sold. In conducting this trial project, we acted in line with current data protection and ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office] guidelines.”
Despite these assurances Pharmacy2U said it will no longer share customer data for use in third party marketing and that all data that was held by Alchemy has been destroyed.