Conclusion of ACCC Proceedings
Update for practices
Dear Practice Customer,
The team here at HealthEngine is privileged to support both your practice and your patients.
The trust you place in us to help your patients connect with your practice online is central to our relationship with you. It helps us to focus our efforts as we continually try to deliver better healthcare experiences and outcomes to Australians.
We wrote to you in August 2019 about the commencement of legal proceedings by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) against HealthEngine in relation to editing of reviews, ratings system and private health insurance referral arrangements.
As I noted in that letter, HealthEngine had discontinued or significantly overhauled the services in question before we were formally advised of any ACCC investigation.
We also publicly recognised that our rapid growth had sometimes outpaced our systems and processes, and we sincerely apologised if that had meant we had not always met the high expectations of the community and our customers.
I wanted to provide you with an update, as proceedings have now concluded, enabling HealthEngine to continue its focus on providing a consent-driven platform that helps patients to find and connect with your practice and the healthcare services they need.
Following the commencement of legal proceedings, HealthEngine and the ACCC attended court-ordered mediation, after which the parties put joint submissions and proposed orders to the Federal Court. In the joint submissions, the ACCC acknowledged that the contraventions did not relate to medical or clinical matters; that there was no suggestion that senior management intended to breach Australian consumer law; and HealthEngine co-operated with the ACCC throughout the investigation.
After considering the submissions, the Federal Court today made orders that HealthEngine pay a financial penalty; notify consumers who requested a call regarding a health insurance comparison that HealthEngine did not clearly communicate on the booking form that a third party would contact them regarding the comparison and that we would pass-on consumer details to enable that to occur and commission an annual independent review of its Australian Consumer Law compliance program for the next three years.
It is important to reinforce that HealthEngine never has, and never will, sell user databases to third parties. The mistake we did make was not making it clear on the booking form that when a consumer requested to speak to an expert relating to their health insurance, a third party private health insurance comparison service, not HealthEngine, would call them back. As a result, some consumers may not have made a fully informed choice regarding the transfer of their non-clinical, personal information to that private health insurance comparison service. We apologise for that error.
HealthEngine is confident that no adverse health outcomes were created by these issues and no clinical data was shared with any private health insurance comparison service. The only time we provide clinical information to third parties is to a consumer’s nominated healthcare provider to deliver the health care services requested by that consumer.
Addressing patient enquiries
It is possible that a small number of patients will contact you about this matter. We hope the information shared here supports you with any questions you receive. In addition, a Question & Answer document is available in the Help Centre via this link to support your team with any patient enquiries if needed.
You may also refer patients with any questions or concerns to email@example.com and a member of our Patient Support team will connect with them directly.
Our promise to you
We have always taken our responsibility to your practice and patients seriously. This trust is paramount to me and my team, and we are working hard to rebuild any trust we have lost.
Good intentions do not excuse poor execution, and this process has given us a greater understanding of our operational shortcomings, which we have addressed. We apologise for any issues it may have caused.
We want to thank you for your ongoing support. More than two million patients a month continue to use our services and the introduction of our telehealth services to assist with patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic has been well received.
These proceedings have now concluded, but it in no way ends our desire to continue to rebuild trust with practices and patients.
Our mission to enable better healthcare experiences and outcomes remains at the heart of everything we do.
If you have any questions about this matter or would like further information, please contact your CSM directly, or Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org or log into your Practice Admin Portal for live chat.
Dr Marcus Tan
CEO, Founder and Medical Director
Some additional information on HealthEngine’s now-overhauled Practice Recognition System
The intent of Health Engine’s Practice Recognition System (PRS) was to celebrate the great work of practices around Australia while complying with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency regulations prohibiting the publication of patient identifiers, specific GP identifiers and clinical information.
While patient feedback will continue to be sought by HealthEngine for those practice customers that participate in the PRS, feedback is no longer published on the HealthEngine Network. Patient feedback is now only shared directly with the relevant participating practice and will be unedited. This assists practices to identify areas of improvement in the services they offer, as well as highlighting any strengths.
This allows our practice customers to continue receiving feedback from patients, both positive and negative and without modification, so you can continually identify areas of strength and improvement.
The application of patient ratings to practices has also been substantially overhauled.
Some additional information on HealthEngine’s now-discontinued Third Party Referral Service for private health insurance comparisons
The ACCC raised concerns about the provision of information to private health insurance comparison services. It is important that you are aware of the consent protocols that were in place for this service.
First and foremost, no clinical information was ever shared with third party private health insurance comparison services. This service focussed on enabling patients to receive information on whether they could obtain new or better terms relating to their private health insurance arrangements.
The mistake we did make was not making it adequately clear on the booking form that when a consumer requested to speak to an expert relating to their health insurance, a third party private health insurance comparison service, not HealthEngine, would call them back.
It is important to reinforce that HealthEngine never has, and never will, sell user databases to third parties. HealthEngine is confident that no adverse health outcomes were created by these issues.
Further, HealthEngine is confident that personal information was not shared with private health insurance comparison services unless the individual had expressly requested to be contacted. In any event, HealthEngine ceased the private health insurance comparison service two years ago, before we were formally advised of any ACCC investigation.