Before rebranding as a warrior for free speech and a passionate crusader for privacy rights, newly announced presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy was pitching the U.S. and world governments on his efforts to install a broad, centralized database of private medical records.
All without the consent of the actual patients
In a pursuit forged through one of his subsidiary companies, a “health information” data mining outfit called Datavant, Ramaswamy’s outfit pursued the establishment of a single national and global database for all covid-related patient health records.
Through a partnership with Snowflake, a San Francisco-based cloud computing company, Ramaswamy wanted to “fight covid-19” by manufacturing a “single repository of all the real-world medical data” thanks to the production of a “national data infrastructure” of private and public patient records, all without the consent of the actual patients.
Datavant claimed the records would be anonymized through their internal systems and that the broad database would only be available to researchers and government officials. However, some weren’t buying the sales pitch, citing gross violations of medical privacy. Moreover, none of the methods to supposedly anonymize records were made open source for review.
Nonetheless Ramaswamy’s Datavant sought to profit off of the hysteria and violate basic ethical standards in the process. They succeeded in establishing a partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
While some companies were happy to contribute to the Datavant endeavor, citing the “national emergency” as the ultimate precedent for violating patient consent standards, many others balked at the idea, citing privacy issues.
Anthem Inc (now known as Elevance Health), the second largest health insurance company in the U.S., rejected the appeal to deliver customer records into a national and global database. When reached by the Wall Street Journal, an Anthem spokesperson said that “Anthem takes the security of its data and the personal information of health plan members very seriously.”
“Datavant’s proposed registry would be free for government and academic researchers to access, and would aim to include every patient who has been tested for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus,” The WSJ story reported. “The consortium is aiming to have data covering 80% of U.S. medical claims, including those submitted to private insurers as well as Medicaid and Medicare Advantage.”
A fierce privacy advocate and “free speech absolutist”?
Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale University, expressed concern about Ramaswamy’s data mining effort, telling Endpoints News: “This is highly sensitive information and the effort is important, but it is important to know the details.”
Datavant later helped to establish a global Covid-19 research database. However, like most of Ramaswamy’s previous business ventures, the end product was not remotely successful. The database is linked to a handful of incredibly shoddy covid-19 studies.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Ramaswamy has presented himself as a fierce privacy advocate and “free speech absolutist.” Nonetheless, his blunder-heavy business record shows a man who has long been invested in financing and developing tools to invade sovereignty and personal privacy.
For more on Ramaswamy’s paradoxical advocacy and his continually changing political posturing, read Vetting Vivek Ramaswamy in The Dossier.
He’s running as a “R(ino)EPUBLICAN?” Just from this alone, if I had to choose between this yahoo and Pence, I’d be forced to vote for Pence — whom I can’t stand. –TPR