New Databases Share Test Results, Prescriptions

Info used to assemble health 'credit reports'
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser User
Posted Aug 4, 2008 1:57 PM CDT
Bottles of prescription medication are seen on the shelf of a pharmacy in Gloucester, Mass.   (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)
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(Newser) – The prescriptions and medical test results of more than 200 million Americans are being assembled into commercial databases, the Washington Post reports, which then sell health "credit reports" to insurance companies trying to evaluate whether to accept an individual for coverage. The companies not only disclose drug and test information, they provide a "pharmacy risk score," based on people in a particular age group who have taken the same prescriptions.

For insurers, the data is faster and cheaper to obtain than records from physicians. "Some insurers can make a decision in the same day, or right on the spot," one data base entrepreneur said. "That's the real 'value-add.' " But the new technology is subject to little or no federal oversight, and it's raising a lot of privacy concerns: “The lack of transparency with how all of this works is disturbing,” says one critic.