Big brother

Employers paying attention to when women employees stop taking birth control

(Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

In an attempt to cut increasing health-care costs, major companies are studying big data collected on their workers by insurers and so-called wellness firms. Huge corporations like Walmart are paying insurers and employee wellness firms to identify workers who are at risk for health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. But, in some cases, they’re also looking for clues to something else.

One interesting niche service is provided by a company named Castlight Healthcare. It offers clients a new product that scans insurance claims to identify women who have stopped having their birth control prescriptions filled, and women who have made fertility-related searches on the Castlight health app. An algorithm matches this data with a woman’s age and the ages of any children she might have to compute the probability of an impending pregnancy. According to Jonathan Rende, Castlight’s chief research and development officer, if a woman employee is judged likely to be pregnant, she is sent mails or in-app messages with tips for choosing appropriate prenatal care. Whether the algorithm is right or wrong about its conclusions, a woman can opt out of receiving such messages. To avoid appearing intrusive, Rende said that Castlight carefully test-markets its messages.

Read the full story at Dow Jones Business News.

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