Capital Clicks

Settlement negotiations reported in UIHC patient-privacy lawsuit

By: - November 14, 2023 12:44 pm

The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics is in settlement talks with a woman who sued the hospital over the alleged disclosure of confidential patient information to Facebook. (Hospital photo courtesy UIHC; Facebook logo courtesy of Facebook)

The University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics is in settlement negotiations with a woman who alleges the hospital shared confidential patient information with Facebook.

In April, lawyers for Eileen Yeisley, filed suit against UIHC in federal court for the alleged “intentional, reckless, and/or negligent disclosure” of confidential medical information to the social-media giant Facebook.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status to represent a broad array of patients, alleges that UIHC manages or controls two websites that it encourages individuals to use for booking medical appointments, locating physicians and treatment facilities, communicating medical symptoms, procuring information on medical conditions and treatment options, and signing up for events and classes.

According to the lawsuit, UIHC installed on those websites two sets of computer code that tracks the online activity of people as they interact with those particular websites. Information about that activity is allegedly shared with Facebook and linked to that individuals’ personal Facebook account.

Facebook, in turn, has allegedly sold that information to third-party marketers who can then target the individuals’ Facebook pages with ads tailored to their medical issues.

The lawsuit claims UIHC installed the computer coding — copies of which are included in the plaintiffs’ petition — for marketing purposes in an effort to bolster its profits.

In response to the allegations, University of Iowa Health Care released a written statement that said: “University of Iowa Health Care is committed to protecting patient privacy. We do not share protected health information of our patients with Meta or Facebook.”

On Oct. 18, a judge granted UIHC’s motion to dismiss the case but specifically allowed for the filing of an amended complaint within 14 days. Yeisley’s lawyers then obtained an extension on that deadline, allowing for the filing of a new complaint on or before Nov. 15.

“The parties have engaged in limited settlement discussions and want the opportunity to explore settlement options further before the expiration of the plaintiff’s deadline,” Yeisley’s lawyers told the court.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.