It is worth getting up to speed on this issue by reading Jane Sarasohn-Kahn's latest report for the California Healthcare Foundation, entitled Here's Looking at You: How Personal Information Is Being Tracked and Used. I enjoyed speaking with Jane about these issues as she was researching and writing the report.
1. Most people are unaware that they are leaving their personal data behind and that some of this information is not protected by HIPAA. Data brokers are able to build dossiers on individuals to sell to marketers, while consumers lack recourse to obtain or correct their information.
2. Clinical researchers, health plans, and others use the information to enhance individuals' health as well as to benefit public health. Larger and speedier clinical trials are made possible by the quantity of data available.
3. Different types of information — such as historical claims data and consumer-generated data — can be combined and used for statistical modeling for health or financial risk-profiling. Such information is purchased by hedge funds, hospitals, large provider networks, payers, pharmaceutical companies, and others.