Insurer has ‘great concerns’ over confidentiality
A local insurer has queried recent statements by the Bermuda Health Council that the group never asked companies to supply data that could identify patients.
BHeC CEO Jennifer Attride-Stirling yesterday reiterated that the organisation only collects anonymous information.
But one insurer responded that the request for patient-specific information was tabled at a meeting last December, and that it is shown in minutes of the meeting.
“They weren’t proposing to ask for names,” the source, who asked not to be identified, told
The Royal Gazette. “But they were asking for insurance numbers. That number is unique.
“It’s created by the insurance company and used in providers’ offices, by doctors, the hospital and the pharmacy. If you then factor in the request for age and gender and the category of insurance, we have great concerns.”
The insurer added: “We’re fully supportive of the fact that they want to gather data to create health profiles for Bermuda and make informed decisions about long term healthcare.
“But when we saw the minutes for this meeting we had a problem straight away.”
The BHeC initially proposed a format of raw data being handed over by the company, the insurer said.
“We said we were happy to provide it, but we wanted to provide it in a format that didn’t have individual data but have it grouped.”
The source added: “For them to say that they never requested anything confidential makes me wonder how they define what is confidential. We have not had any further meetings with the council since January. Perhaps they have backed off.”
Minutes from a December 7 meeting show proposed fields for a claims data request that include the category of group insurance such as from employer, corporate scheme or individual and the insurer’s identification number.
Dr Attride-Stirling acknowledged that the meeting had included “preliminary brainstorming on possible data fields and formats”, with the intention of bringing national health accounts to the standards of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“Among the things discussed in that meeting was the need for an anonymous unique identifier,” she said. “There was no intention that it should be the policy number, social security number, or any other real ID that would make a patient identifiable.”
She described the new system as a work in progress.
“The data request is still in development, and many ideas and suggestions may be made during discussion which are not used in the final product.
“This is part of any development process, but BHeC has never requested from insurers any patient-identifiable data, and there are no plans to do so.”
As an example, she said, the data request would allow the BHeC to get a precise number of 40-year-old women who have had a mammogram. However, it would be impossible to uncover individual identities.
Dr Attride-Stirling added: “This insurer’s objection to the format is well known to us and we have explained the anonymity of the data request, but we will continue to work with them to address their concerns, and ensure BHeC only receives anonymous information.”
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