The doctor of the future may be able to keep tabs on your health through your spending patterns.

Let’s say Joe Money’s doctor advised him not to eat too many treats, as he is prediabetic. Joe loves sweets and heads to the store to pick up some cookies, against his doc’s orders. What he may not know is that the doctor may discover Joe is cheating on his diet and not following positive spending habits for his health.

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Carolinas HealthCare system is now using data from 2 million people to create algorithms that can detect when a patient who is at risk of succumbing to illness is  making bad purchases for their health. The healthcare system spans across both North and South Carolina and operates the largest medical centers in the area with more than 900 care centers, surgical centers, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and hospitals.

How are hospitals gathering information

“Information on consumer spending can provide a more complete picture than the glimpse doctors get during an office visit or through lab results,” says, Michael Dulin, chief clinical officer at Carolinas HealthCare.

As estimated by CNNMoney, half of U.S. adults have had their information hacked within the last 12 months. With Carolinas HealthCare receiving information on patients’ spending habits, this causes concern for whether or not people’s credit card information is more at risk.

Dulin declined to give the name of the data provider, but had this to say, “While Carolinas HealthCare can share patients’ risk assessments with their doctors under the hospital’s contract with its data provider, it isn’t allowed to disclose details, such as specific transactions by an individual.” Dulin adds, “We want to find people before they end up in trouble.”

How hospitals use patient credit card information

Patients are given risk scores, which Dulin’s team regularly provides to doctors and nurses for patients who are high at risk and making purchases that are a detriment to their health. For now it appears sensitive information is securely stored, but no one can predict whether people’s credit card information will be more at risk as a result of having it tracked.

Many people have expressed concern and frustration, even if it appears to be for a good cause. Jorjanne Murry, an accountant in Charlotte, has Type 1 diabetes and says, “I think it is intrusive.” She also said that she ignores any calls from her health insurer on how she conducts herself and her spending habits.

Hospitals are rewarded based on patient retention rate

Under guidelines from President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hospitals who reduce patient retention are rewarded for their efforts. Previously, hospital pay was primarily linked to the fee-for-service model, which paid hospitals based on the number of procedures and tests performed. Now, fines are imposed on hospitals where patients are constantly readmitted within a month of being released. Therefore, this new method of preventative health deterioration can help hospitals improve the overall quality of health for its patients and help it succeed in generating more revenue to be used for things like updating equipment, hiring staff or doing whatever necessary to help it remain operational.

The truth of the matter is if someone wants to receive help, they will reach out to get it. But if someone has diabetes and ignores their condition — that is their decision to make. Doctors may be wasting valuable time in helping someone who clearly is not taking their health seriously, and instead should focus more on patients who are willing to receive help.

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