STAT+: How a complex web of businesses turned private health records from GE into a lucrative portrait of patients

A monthslong STAT investigation shows how Quintiles and a constellation of other businesses took a GE Healthcare database and turned it into a far more valuable picture of the patients…

It was supposed to be a routine client meeting. Instead, one of GE Healthcare’s largest customers dropped a bombshell: It had taken data GE considered confidential — millions of patient medical records stripped of identifying information — and linked it to a massive trove of insurance claims, vacuuming up financial details tied to the patients’ medical problems, prescriptions, and doctor’s visits.

The revelations by Quintiles, a global drug research company, set off a cascade of concerns within GE, according to a confidential memo obtained by STAT. Executives worried GE was “at risk of privacy violations” and called for an internal legal review. The unsettling part was how precisely the patients were flagged in another dataset, with near perfect accuracy, the memo said.

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