2 large hospital systems in La. being sued for allegedly sharing sensitive patient data with Facebook & Instagram

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 11:17 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (KSLA) - Two of the biggest hospitals in Louisiana are being sued for allegedly sharing sensitive patient data with out their knowledge or consent.

The class-action lawsuit filed by Herman Herman & Katz claims the two hospitals have been using a tracking code embedded in their websites that shares patient information without their knowledge or consent. The law firm says the computer code is known as Meta Pixel, and was created by the company that owns Facebook and Instagram; they say it collected, analyzed and shared medical data from hundreds of thousands of patients.

The two hospitals in question are LCMC Health System in the New Orleans area and Willis-Knighton Health System in northwest Louisiana.

LCMC Health Systems includes a number of hospitals and medical facilities in the New Orleans area, including Children’s Hospital, East Jefferson General Hospital, New Orleans East Hospital, Touro, University Medical Center New Orleans and West Jefferson Medical Center.

Willis-Knighton Health System is the biggest healthcare provider in NWLA and includes Willis-Knighton Medical Center, Willis-Knighton South & the Center for Women’s Health, WK Bossier Health Center, WK Pierremont Health Center and WK Rehabilitation Institute.

“We are learning more and more about this shocking breach of trust as our investigation continues,” said Herman Herman & Katz partner Stephen Herman. “This was a gross invasion of privacy that went on for years.”

The lawsuit says the Meta Pixel code was created by the company Meta and narrowly targets users with digital ads. When people would use the health systems’ websites to schedule an appointment, the code would allegedly capture sensitive personal information such as medical conditions, prescriptions, doctors’ names and other appointments, then send the information to Facebook. The firm says in one case, for example, a woman got targeted ads about heart disease and joint pain just after entering her info into one of the hospitals’ websites.

The lawsuit goes on to claim the use of the Meta Pixel violates HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which prohibits sharing personal health information with a third party without the patient’s consent.

Willis-Knighton’s attorney sent the following statement Wednesday morning (Feb. 15) about the lawsuit:

“Willis-Knighton is one of many hospitals throughout the nation (including Louisiana) who have recently been sued regarding the very common use of digital media marketing tools. While we do not comment on ongoing litigation, Willis-Knighton is committed to protecting the privacy of those who communicate with us on a digital platform.”

LCMC Health issued the following statement:

“LCMC Health is deeply committed to patient privacy and takes any implication that data has been shared inappropriately with the utmost urgency. We are aware of the pending lawsuit and intend to defend LCMC Health vigorously against the plaintiffs’ claims.”

Herman Herman & Katz is working with two other law firms on this case: AZA Law in Houston and Kelly & Townsend LLC in Natchitoches.