In Australian terms it could be thought of as variously evil or genius, but personal injury law firms in the US will soon be sending targeted ads to the smartphones of patients in hospital emergency departments.

The initiative by a New York-based marketing company will use geofencing to identify patients’ devices within ERs for law firms in Philadelphia, with interest also coming from elsewhere in the States.

“It's really, I think, the closest thing an attorney can do to putting a digital kiosk inside of an emergency room,” Tell All Digital managing partner Bill Kakis told the America’s National Public Radio.

“Is everybody in an emergency room going to need an attorney? Absolutely not. But people that are going to need a personal injury attorney are more than likely at some point going to end up in an emergency room.”

Geofencing uses GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic perimeter, allowing advertisers to identify smartphones within it from wifi, mobile data or apps.

It is the first time the technology, which Kakis described as “totally legit”, has been used by law firms. 

Regardless of whether it is legit, it is legal, according to Professor Bill McGeveran, a data privacy expert at the University of Minnesota Law School, because the legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for the safeguarding of medical information in the US covers hospitals, clinics, doctors and insurance companies, not lawyers and marketers.

“HIPAA is targeted only to certain particular actors in the healthcare industry, so there's lots of digital marketing and record-keeping that's outside of HIPAA,” McGeveran said.

Patients in pain clinics and chiropractors’ offices will also be targeted as part of the initial marketing effort.

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TAGS: Geofence



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