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More on Allscripts—and the fight over data

Earlier today, I posted news about Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions intending to sell its Medication Services division to an unnamed purchaser for an unspecified amount. I’ve since gotten clarification via e-mail from company spokesman Todd Stein:

“The release is earlier than we would normally have liked because we’re required to reveal all material non-public information about the company prior to undertaking a share repurchase program like the one we also announced yesterday. That’s to ensure that shareholders know everything about the company that they need to know in order to make an informed buy-or-sell decision.”

Indeed, Allscripts announced yesterday a $150 million buyback program and related $150 million increase in its credit commitments.

The company also was named in a Bloomberg story today as one of three firms leading the fight over whether to include greater privacy protections than HIPAA currently affords in the $20 billion health IT section of the economic stimulus legislation. Privacy advocates, including Dr. Deborah Peel’s Patient Privacy Rights Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, favor the House version. Business groups, including IT vendors, pharmacy benefit managers and the pharmaceutical industry, prefer the Senate version that allows data mining and direct-to-consumer marketing to continue.

For the record, the other companies named as possible major beneficiaries of the legislation are athenahealth and Quality Systems, the publicly traded parent company of NextGen Healthcare Information Systems.

How do I know this story is a Big Deal? Peel and her cohorts have been very active in keeping the media up to date on developments on Capitol Hill the last couple of weeks, knowing that this could be the last chance for another decade or more to change existing healthcare privacy laws and practices.

February 11, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Bad data mining

Recently I received a flier in the mail from Bausch & Lomb, offering me a free sample of an over-the-counter allergy drug called Alaway (ketotifen fumarate ophthalmic solution). “Don’t suffer through another allergy season. Stop itchy eyes,” the mailer said.

How did Bausch & Lomb know I have hay fever? It could only be from my history of purchasing OTC decongestants like Claritin-D and Alavert-D (both are loratadine/pseudoephedrine combos). And the reason why drug companies know I was taking this medication is because federal law now requires a photo ID and a signature to purchase any products containing pseudoephedrine. (Thanks, meth heads, for inconveniencing millions of innocent people.)

Clearly, pharmacies are selling their pseudoephedrine purchase logs to pharma marketers. Some might call this legitimate use of my personal information for disease management purposes under the treatment/payment/operations exception to HIPAA. It feels more like a violation of my privacy.

Anyone else have similar thoughts?

June 20, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.