Advertisers aren't the only ones interested in your spending habits — hospitals and insurance companies are taking note as well. Carolinas HealthCare, which operates hundreds of healthcare facilities from hospitals to nursing homes and care centers throughout North and South Carolina, is purchasing transaction data and other information on its patients to try and get ahead of any medical problems, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
The data, including purchase history and information like car loans, is put through an algorithm that gives a risk score to patients. That score can then be shared with doctors. A representative from Carolinas HealthCare tells the magazine that it plans to start routinely giving those scores to health-care professionals in two years' time, and it hopes to do more with the data. It currently can't pass along detailed information — like what its patients are purchasing — to doctors, but the company hopes it can renegotiate with its (undisclosed) data provider to give professionals access to that as well. Nevertheless, under the current system, data like whether patients have open gym memberships or how often they purchase cigarettes is used in the score calculation.
Both insurance companies and hospitals are interested in using consumer data in this way to help cut costs. While insurance companies are no longer allowed to increase premiums or deny coverage under Obamacare based on preexisting health conditions, companies can save money by trying to proactively prevent health conditions based on the data. Alternatively, hospitals can identify patients who are likely to heavily lean on emergency room visits instead of regular check-ups, and proactively provide resources to help cut down costly ER trips.