Hospitals to Begin Monitoring Your Credit Card Purchases to Flag ‘Unhealthy’ Habits

What you buy at the grocery store, where you live, and even your membership status at the local gym are all subject to a new data collection scheme by the American medical system. Reports indicate that hospitals and doctors’ offices all across the country are now collecting this and other personal information in order to target individuals deemed to have “unhealthy” lifestyle habits that put them at high risk of disease.

Bloomberg reports that hospital systems in both North and South Carolina as well as Pennsylvania have already begun tracking people’s food-purchasing habits by spying on them through public records and credit card transactions. Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS), which operates some 900 care centers throughout the Carolinas, has teamed up with a data-mining company to compile and track this information for the later purpose of calling “high-risk” folks and urging them to make a change.

“What we are looking to find are people before they end up in trouble,” stated Michael Dulin, chief clinical officer for analytics and outcomes at CHS, to Bloomberg. “The idea is to use big data and predictive models to think about population health and drill down to the individual levels to find someone running into trouble that we can reach out to and try to help out.”

Though seemingly benevolent, the plan is overshadowed by serious privacy concerns that many say violate the established terms of the patient-doctor relationship. Simply plugging an individual’s purchasing data into a metric and coming up with a risk assessment figure is also an entirely shortsighted way of gauging personal health, not to mention the fact that sharing this information without consent violates the public trust.