CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — An online tracking tool used by many hospitals collects patient health information and sends it to Facebook.
More than 30 hospitals are impacted, including Novant Health. Published information includes details of medical conditions and prescriptions.
“It’s awful,” said Benjamin Morris, who was previously in health care. “Most people don’t want their personal stuff out there.”
One tracking tool, the Meta Pixel, is used by dozens of hospitals across the country. It collects sensitive patient health information and sends it to Facebook.
“Certainly, I think you could legitimately plead a violation of HIPPA,” Charlotte’s attorney Matthew Fleischman said.
If you schedule a doctor’s appointment online, this information is collected and then connected to an IP address. Then Facebook receives the data.
“In this situation, where you potentially have a third party company or the medical provider itself potentially benefiting financially by sharing this information without permission or without HIPPA permission, you certainly could have a really valid case as an individual or group of individuals against these vendors,” Fleischman said.
It is unclear whether Meta takes advantage of the information received.
HIPPA laws prohibit the sharing of any medical information to third parties, and even relatives, without permission.
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“It’s really bad,” Morris said. “And whoever leaked it should be held accountable.”
Novant Health released the following statement:
“At Novant Health, we take the privacy and care of patient information very seriously and appreciate the trust our patients place in us to keep their medical information confidential.
About two years ago, we engaged a third-party vendor to help us develop and implement a campaign designed to encourage individuals to sign up for MyChart.
The goal of this initiative was to get more people to take advantage of virtual care opportunities, especially as COVID had a significant impact on how people preferred to receive care, as well as on our resources to provide in-person care.
We used tracking pixels to determine how many people signed up for MyChart, not what they did after logging in.
When we were notified of this Meta Pixel, we immediately removed the pixel while we investigate the matter.
According Facebook Terms and Conditionsthey have policies and filters that block sensitive personal data.
Patients, however, say they will think twice before booking online.
“Of course,” said Chase Clark, who lives in Charlotte. “Yeah. It’s screwed up. It’s personal information and it shouldn’t be done.