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Insurers mine data for information on members

The goal is to design interventions to keep patients healthy

Health insurance companies are mining data to gather more personal information on their members--data they want to use to help keep people healthy, according to a STAT report.

Insurers are gathering up information from what car model members drive to what magazines they read, the report said. "I think I could better predict someone's risk of a heart attack based upon their Visa bill than their genome," Harry Greenspun, M.D., a director at Deloitte who leads a team that mines data for health insurers and other clients, told STAT.

Insurers are looking for information they can use to craft interventions to keep patients healthy. If a member suddenly stops shopping at home-improvement stores, for example, it might be an indicator that he or she is depressed. Or driving a foreign-made car, it turns out, is a predictor that a person is more likely to lose eligibility for Medicaid in the coming year.

Insurers hope to use such data to customize the approach to different patients, reaching out to encourage smokers to quit or sending members customized vitamin supplements.

Privacy advocates, however, worry that Big Brother is watching. They say insurers are using highly personal information without informed consent and with little transparency or accountability, according to the article.

Data mining is just one more source of patient information, however. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has all of its 36 member companies contribute healthcare quality and cost information to BCBS Axis, which it says is the largest database in the healthcare industry.

BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee is one insurer using big data to drive personalized care and prevent health problems. It is developing customized solutions for employer groups and sending personalized messages to individual members to help them get preventive care, accordng to Chief Data and Engagement Officer Sherri Zink.

To learn more:
- read the article

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