Practice Fusion settles FTC charges that it misled patients

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Practice Fusion settles FTC charges that it misled patients

By Mike Miliard

Practice Fusion will settle with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after charges that it misled users of its patient portal into reviewing their physicians – often including sensitive medical information that was then posted online.

The FTC complaint says Practice Fusion, in its efforts to launch a public-facing provider directory component of its Patient Fusion portal, sent emails to users with post-visit satisfaction surveys with their physicians' names at the bottom of the message. A disclosure underneath clarified that the email was “sent on behalf of Doctor [Healthcare Provider’s Name]’s office” by Practice Fusion.

While the site did have a privacy policy, FTC charges that for about a year between 2012 and 2013 it “did not indicate in this section or elsewhere in its privacy policy that it would publicly post reviews by patients of their providers.”

Consumers were instructed not to volunteer personal information, but the alert was “in light grey type,” according to the FTC complaint. Moreover, even though there was a pre-checked box to “keep this review anonymous,” keeping it checked “did not anonymize anything a consumer wrote in the free text box, including a consumer’s identifying information.”

“Practice Fusion’s actions led consumers to share incredibly sensitive health information without realizing it would be made public,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Companies that collect personal health information must be clear about how they will use it – especially before posting such information publicly on the Internet.”

Under the settlement, the FTC will prohibit the company from making deceptive statements about the privacy or confidentiality of the data it collects, and will also require it – prior to making any consumer information publicly available – to “clearly and conspicuously disclose this fact” and obtain affirmative consent.

Read full article and learn more about Privacy Policy and the FTC here.

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Disclaimer:  This article is provided for informational purposes only. It’s not legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is created. Neither the author nor FTC Guardian, Inc. is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission.

 

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