These Healthcare Data Companies Earn Millions by Making Employees Healthier, Saving Their Employers Boatloads of Money
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June 3, 2016
She may have told only her partner and her parents, but data collected by Castlight Health could predict a female employee’s pregnancy before she has announced the news to her co-workers.
The San Francisco-based company will make this determination by looking at a woman’s age, the ZIP code she lives in, the number of children who live in this woman’s household, the woman’s search history within the platform’s internal health resource library, what doctors the woman has visited lately, whether a woman has filled a prescription for prenatal vitamins, whether a woman has filled a prescription for birth control and other related digitized data. If the Castlight Health analytics software thinks that a woman may be pregnant, its system sends the individual relevant, personalized health information and advice within the platform.
The goal is to empower employees to make better decisions about their health, says Alka Tandon, the product lead at Castlight Health. Pregnancy is just one of any number of health conditions that the Castlight Health system can predict. Others include lower back pain, diabetes, hip and knee issues that may require surgery and cardiac care.
These conditions be disruptive, expensive or even tragic, so getting personalized healthcare advice when you need it can be crucial — such as when taking steps to prevent a future child from being born with a birth defect. But this peek into the future comes with a high price.
“Let’s be clear: There is always risk,” says Kevin Johnson, CEO of the cybersecurity firm Secure Ideas , a team of white-hat hackers paid by companies to break into their security systems. “If anybody tells you that there is no risk involved, punch them in the throat because they are lying to you.”
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Your doctor has your personal health information. So does your insurance company. Now, many companies give employees the option to invite a third-party analytics company into the exam room. That means more eyeballs on your chart — and more potential cracks for that information to get out, according to Johnson.
The question here — and with all exchanges of information in the digital realm — is whether the risk to the individual is worth it. Will this data actually help you make better health decisions? The potential benefits are huge — life changing — but the risks are just as great. The danger of having your health information tampered with is greater than the danger of having almost any other information tampered with. If your credit card security is breached, you can order a new credit card. It’s annoying, Johnson says, but it’s not going to put your life in jeopardy.
In some cases, you may not become aware that your health information was tampered with until it’s too late. Johnson explains how this scenario could work. “One of the reasons that people steal health records is to qualify for insurance for themselves. So this person who has stolen my health records so that they can get healthcare is allergic to penicillin, but I am not,” he says. “All of a sudden, I have an emergency and my lungs are having problems, I am sick, I go to the hospital, they pull up my medical records, and because of this bad guy, they now believe that I am allergic to penicillin, so they don’t use it even though it would be the most effective treatment.”
The business of analyzing your healthcare data.
Healthcare costs have ballooned in the U.S. Employers are hiring these outside, third-party healthcare tech companies because there is more data and computing power than ever before. The goal is both to empower individuals to be proactive in their own care and to lower overall healthcare costs for employers.