Drug Companies Could Use EHR Systems for Targeted Marketing

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Electronic health record systems could be used by pharmaceutical companies to market their products to physicians and consumers, Reuters reports.

Pharmaceutical companies historically have gathered patients' de-identified data from insurers, pharmacies and public records to improve their marketing strategies.

However, drug companies can collect and analyze data through EHR systems and use that information to reach out to consumers and doctors.

For example, Practice Fusion offers a no-cost EHR system to providers who agree to:

  • Receive advertisements for prescription drugs; and
  • Provide data from patient files.

Practice Fusion CEO Ryan Howard said the company also has a program in which it sends consumers emails for vaccine reminders that are funded by pharmaceutical companies, but the reminders appear to be sent from the individual's physician.

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Farzad Mostashari -- a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and former national coordinator for health IT -- said the marketing efforts could undermine doctor-patient relationships. He said some patients could tell a doctor about an illness and then receive an advertisement about a possible treatment.

Christopher Tashjian, a Wisconsin physician, noted that marketing practices often remain unknown to patients unless they ask their provider about who operates their EHR system and find out the details of the agreement (Pinsker, Reuters, 1/8).


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