HealthEngine welcomes today’s conclusion of legal proceedings brought against it by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).
HealthEngine is a consent-driven platform helping patients find and connect with the healthcare services they need.
The services in question were either discontinued or significantly overhauled two years ago, prior to HealthEngine being formally advised of any ACCC investigation.
Personal, not clinical, information was provided to private health insurance comparison services when consumers specifically requested a call regarding a health insurance comparison. We did not make it sufficiently clear on the booking form that a third party, not HealthEngine, would be contacting them regarding the comparison and that we would be passing on consumer details for that to occur. This was an error and HealthEngine apologises for it.
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.
HealthEngine and the ACCC put joint submissions and proposed orders to the Federal Court. After considering the submissions, the Federal Court made orders that HealthEngine pay a financial penalty, notify affected consumers (see background information below) and commission an annual, independent review of its Australian Consumer Law compliance program for the next three years.
These proceedings have now concluded. However, it in no way ends our desire to continue to rebuild trust with patients and practices.
As noted by HealthEngine co-founder and CEO, Marcus Tan:
Health Engine thanks our practices customers and users for their ongoing support.
When the ACCC commenced proceedings against HealthEngine nearly a year ago, we acknowledged that our rapid early growth had sometimes outpaced our systems and processes and we sincerely apologised that we had not always met the high expectations of the community and our customers. That apology still stands.
Good intentions do not excuse poor execution and this process has given us a greater understanding of our operational shortcomings, which we’ve addressed.
It is important to correct a misconception that emerged when the ACCC proceedings were announced. HealthEngine never has—and never will—sell user databases to third parties. Further, the only time we provide clinical information to third parties is to a consumer’s nominated healthcare provider to deliver the healthcare services requested by that consumer.
We made mistakes at the time with respect to two services we offered — the Practice Recognition System and private health insurance comparison services — and we apologise for those mistakes.
We want to thank our users and practice customers for their ongoing support and continued use of our services. The introduction of our telehealth services to assist with patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic has been well received.
Our mission to enable better healthcare experiences and outcomes remains at the heart of everything we do.
After considering joint submissions put by the ACCC and HealthEngine, the Federal Court determined that HealthEngine breached the Australian Consumer Law in its delivery of two historical services – the Practice Recognition System and private health insurance comparison services.
It ordered that HealthEngine pay a financial penalty; notify consumers who requested a call regarding a private health insurance comparison that HealthEngine did not clearly communicate on the booking form that a third party would be contacting 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.
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.