Hospitals cull patients’ public data to check if they are donor worthy

Nonprofit hospitals are seeking donations from the patients by conducting wealth screenings- using software that culls public data such as property records, contributions to political campaigns and other charities. The purpose is to gauge, which patients are most likely to be the source of donations.

Patient information is being used not only to improve patient-provider communication but to gauge their financial status too.

Those patients who seem to be able to contribute to fundraising may receive a visit from a hospital executive in their rooms along with extra amenities like a bathrobe or a nicer waiting area for their families.

Some hospitals train doctors and nurses to identify patients who have expressed gratitude for the care provided. These patients are put in touch with staff fundraisers. These varied ways are part of the strategy known as “grateful patient programs,” make some people extremely uncomfortable.

Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the New York University School of Medicine says that wealth screening strikes him as unseemly but not illegal or unethical.

Mark Rothstein, a bioethics professor at the University of Louisville says that getting physicians involved in philanthropy is filled with danger and it can make patients worry that their care might be affected by whether they made a donation.