The Federal Trade Commission has approved its final order against electronic health record vendor Practice Fusion for misleading consumers by soliciting reviews for their physicians without properly disclosing that the feedback would be publicly posted on the Internet.
According to the regulatory agency’s complaint, Practice Fusion’s failure to adequately disclose this information to consumers violated the FTC Act and resulted in sensitive personal and medical information being published online in a provider directory.
Under the FTC settlement, Practice Fusion is prohibited from making deceptive statements about the extent to which it uses, maintains and protects the privacy or confidentiality of the information it collects.
The settlement also requires the vendor—prior to making any consumer information publicly available—to clearly and conspicuously disclose this fact and obtain consumers’ affirmative express consent.
In addition, as part of the settlement Practice Fusion cannot publicly display the reviews it collected from consumers during the time period covered by the complaint. The agency alleged that Practice Fusion began sending emails in April 2012 to patients of healthcare providers utilizing its EHR service. The emails appeared to be sent on behalf of the patients’ doctors and asked consumers to rate their provider. The information gathered was for a treatment satisfaction survey feature from April 2012 to April 2013.
“The proposed consent agreement is not related to our core businesses, nor how we have operated the survey feature since April 2013,” the company stated in a response to the settlement. “It does not represent an admission of wrongdoing by Practice Fusion, and there are no monetary damages imposed on Practice Fusion. The complaint associated with the consent agreement does not allege that anything that we are currently doing is problematic.”
The FTC order will terminate in 20 years on Aug. 15, 2036. A copy of the order is available here.
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