The online dating portal of the store usually does not clearly state how the company will use the information provided by the customer. Privacy watchdog groups and some members of Congress have expressed concern about whether pharmacy chains will use this data for marketing (such as selling ibuprofen or other products to deal with injection sequelae). They warn that less tech-savvy patients seeking appointments may inadvertently join the pharmacy loyalty program, which may bombard them with unexpected marketing emails and text.
Andrew Crawford, a lawyer at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said: “We don’t want to see people eager to get vaccinations and, frankly speaking, to protect themselves and their loved ones, they must be used anyway.”
On Friday, some well-known consumer rights organizations, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, sent a letter urging a group of Democratic state attorneys general to investigate how major pharmacy retailers use data from Covid vaccine endorsements. They also put pressure on these retailers to separate this information from marketing or business databases and collect only the minimum information required for vaccine appointments.
The Biden government made a big bet on retail pharmacies, and announced this week that it plans to more than double the number of pharmacies that provide Covid vaccines to 40,000 through a federal plan. Federal data shows that these places are very popular among Americans, who are becoming more and more accustomed to injecting flu vaccines at local pharmacies every year. The White House did not answer a question about the use of Covid vaccine appointment data in pharmacies.
Pharmacies say that the data they collect is important to effectively get people vaccinated and that they comply with health privacy rules. Some privacy lawyers point out that as long as pharmacies do not mine sensitive health information, they can collect and use customer data.
However, consumer advocates say that given the urgency of the health crisis and the difficulty of finding alternative vaccination sites in many cases, how pharmacies should use Covid vaccination data should be more restricted.
HIPAA, a federal law that regulates the use of patient health information, prohibits pharmacies from sharing customer health data for marketing purposes. But they can use this information to send coupons and promote health services they may already provide, such as physical exams or flu shots. Legal experts say that once the data is cleaned to identify detailed information (such as name and contact information, including possible business decisions), there are no restrictions on the processing of the data.
“As long as the scope of promotion is [HIPAA] Privacy rules, they may expand the scope of influence. “She added.
However, Doriann Cain, a partner at the law firm Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, said things like mandatory online registration to make reservations or search for appointments go beyond other services that pharmacies usually require (such as flu shots), and when people frequent this place Time.
Cain said: “The amount of information they have obtained may be very valuable to them.”
Pharmacies cannot charge patients for vaccination costs-the government bears these costs. However, they can bill insurance companies and the government for vaccine administration costs.
For the company, the bigger business opportunity seems to be the opportunity to queue up for returning customers. In a earnings conference call in February, CVS CEO Jon Roberts described the company’s “opportunity to turn vaccines into long-term customers,” ranging from the 15 that patients should wait in stores after receiving Covid injections. Start in minutes. He said that during the observation period, store employees can try to sell patients through the company’s MinuteClinics for regular medical care visits, as well as its paid pharmacy membership service CarePass.
Roberts said: “We have their emails, we have their text messages, and we can communicate with them regularly.”
CVS spokesperson Michael DeAngelis said that the company now only uses customer data for Covid vaccination for appointment confirmation and reminders, but he said using the information for marketing is “an option in the future.” CVS will not require vaccinators to create an online profile until they are ready to book an appointment-phone number is required, but email is optional.
DeAngelis added: “Regarding our patient program, I can usually say that they opt-in, so everything we do must be approved by the client.
A spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission did not disclose whether the consumer protection agency is studying how retail pharmacies use Covid vaccination data. He said that if the company misleads customers about how the information is used, the company can investigate.
The spokesperson said: “If the company tells consumers that they collect data for one purpose, they will no longer be able to use the data for another purpose.”
Some lawmakers recently introduced a bill aimed at restricting companies’ use of data collected in response to the pandemic, warning that people’s concerns about how their personal information is used have hindered the fight against the virus. One of these measures is the Public Health Emergency Privacy Act, which will restrict the way retailers use vaccine program data.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash), co-sponsor of the bill, said: “Data should be used as intended, and public health agencies and technology companies should deploy new digital tools to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The federal government has begun direct delivery of Covid vaccine to retail pharmacies in early February, but discussions about the arrangement began under the leadership of the Trump administration last fall. Twenty-one national chain stores and independent pharmacy networks are participating in the federal program, and the states have also transferred some of the drug fees received from the federal government to pharmacies. CVS and Walgreens have also reached an agreement with the Trump administration to manage vaccination programs for long-term caregivers and residents.
Mitchel Rothholz, chief of staff of the American Pharmacists Association, the industry’s largest trade group, said that early discussions with the federal government did not raise concerns about how pharmacies use customer data. He said that at the time, the main concern was whether pharmacies would use data to prioritize the vaccination volume of their existing customers instead of following state guidelines.
In some cases, people seeking vaccines may be incentivized to register a customer account in a pharmacy. For example, Rite Aid does not require people to register for an account to book appointments, but the company does notify registered customers over the phone if their health records indicate that they are eligible for the vaccine when they have an unused dose available. political.
Privacy experts say that some retail pharmacies are better than others in separating vaccine appointments from marketing. The grocery chain Albertsons allows people to choose to receive Covid-related vaccine marketing information or general marketing coverage instead of automatic registration when securing the location of the vaccine slot.
In chains that require people to create user accounts before searching for appointments, Walgreens and Health Mart have people enter their phone numbers and emails. Wal-Mart and Sam Club did not answer multiple questions about what data they collect and how to use them.