Using Big Data to Predict Worker Illness and Pregnancies

Not a typographical error!  Companies who hire outside consultants are able to get data about their workforce that borders on a serious intrusion of privacy.  Click below for the whole WSJ article, but just a few quotes might give the sense of what I am talking about.

Bosses Tap Outside Firms to Predict Which Workers Might Get Sick – WSJ

“Trying to stem rising health-care costs, some companies, including retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., are paying firms like Castlight Healthcare Inc. to collect and crunch employee data to identify, for example, which workers are at risk for diabetes, and target them with personalized messages nudging them toward a doctor or services such as weight-loss programs.”

“To determine which employees might soon get pregnant, Castlight recently launched a new product that scans insurance claims to find women who have stopped filling birth-control prescriptions, as well as women who have made fertility-related searches on Castlight’s health app.”

“Privacy advocates have raised concerns about such practices. Employees generally have a choice in whether to participate in the programs. The services are new enough that relatively few workers are aware of them.”

“Federal health-privacy laws generally bar employers from viewing workers’ personal health information, though self-insured employers have more leeway, says Careen Martin, a health-care and cybersecurity lawyer at Nilan Johnson Lewis PA. Instead, employers contract with wellness firms who have access to workers’ health data.”

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