Today I’m addressing suspicions that Nature’s Way Medicine was victim of surveillance after possibly hearing a third-party during a recorded phone conversation. The discussion was with an MRI center staff member I called after a voicemail requesting information about a patient for a prior-authorization by an insurance company. The entire conversation was recorded by a phone app that records calls. Occasionally I use the recordings to listen to myself converse as a means to improve my delivery and communication skills.
The call itself was one of particular public value imo, and aside from a couple of personal identifiers, the 15 minute conversation quickly turned to the topic of US healthcare and the role of insurance. Thus, I personally don’t feel that the majority of the recording is private healthcare information protected by HIPAA if confined on its own.
The discussion was one extremely valuable imo for the public to hear because it occurred just after my clinic opened and I began to receive demands from insurance companies for patient information, which I was not accustomed to receiving aside from occasional hospitalist work-related forms or disputes with insurance. I’ve always made sure to challenge insurance claim denials for my hospital patients and have never lost financially on the patient’s behalf. One occasion I was almost denied a patient’s transfer to a inpatient physical therapy rehabilitation center and the patient couldn’t walk. In their defense, the data of the patient and the records appeared he was well-enough for discharge home, but in reality the patient was unable to walk due to dizziness that was caused by a stroke. The insurance viewed him as a typical stroke patient who was not affected in the brain regions involving strength of the legs. However, this particular case was isolated to a region specific to equilibrium and as I spoke with the insurance company’s doctor, I witnessed two nurses struggling to hold him upright for the start of his physical therapy.
Now, I’ve opened a clinic in Wilmington, DE that specialized in medical marijuana consultations, a potential red flag for state and federal entities. Speaking with the MRI center woman would send shivers down my spine as it commenced from the questions I had responsible for administrative tasks alongside my clinical work.
What are they asking for? Why do I need to do this? What happens if I don’t? What are the costs of the MRI? How long have things been this way? Is this state-wide?….
Then the questions and answers evolved into opinions and sharing of personal experiences. It was at this point that the conversation reached a mutual conclusion about health insurance companies. “They’re evil,” I said, before explaining my model of healthcare with traditional patient-physician relationships and direct payment. “I’m not gonna be that doc… I’m gonna be the one that says no. No, I’m not playing your game. And if all other providers did the same this could never happen.”etc.
That’s when the magic happened. The call dropped like so: First she couldn’t hear me, then 2 seconds later I couldn’t hear her either. As I attempted to call out and reestablish a vocal connection, I believe what happened was that the conversation was both so interesting and revealing in its build-up to our conclusions that a third party was uninhibited to whisper something to someone while I shouted at the mobile device to regain reception.
When I reconnected with the other caller, I asked her thoughts about what had occurred and posited that the call was tapped. It was only at this moment that I remembered my phone was recording the call. “This conversation is being recorded, by the way, if that’s okay with you.”
I “terminated” the conversation immediately and would assume my calls were listened to from then onward. When I listened to the recording, it was very hard to hear the intruder’s whispers and certainly many people would be skeptical and consider it artifact or background noise. Yet my gut still tells me this is whispering, every time I hear it. Enough so to claim gender. It’s a female’s voice.
I chased this because I was afraid that my patient’s healthcare information was being compromised of its privacy rights. The cellphone is used for work and if the calls were monitored it would be a HIPAA violation. I personally had nothing to lose since my business is legal, accountable, and very closely adheres to state and even federal law the way the state runs its medical marijuana approval process. But the patients are my patients and anyone under my wing has a physician that fights for their rights and will relentlessly pursue any means to secure them!
So I called Verizon Wireless.
“Sir, I’ve told you too many times – that phone call had no interruptions or disconnections or other abnormalities based on all the information we have.”
“No. You don’t get it. I don’t want that information. I want the 01101101001011…. that. The data. The raw data. The stuff in the computer.”
“Hmmm… that’s not really something that exists but I can ask my manager about that while I place you on hold.”
He returned with a different tone in his voice, like he was treading into unfamiliar territory and hesitant to discuss. Despite me being clear with him that I was asking for deep data was because I believed that the call was being surveillanced illegally by a third party, it took twenty minutes for him to reveal that indeed there is additional data stored about calls besides if they dropped or not but that data requires a formal request to Verizon’s “Electronic Surveillance Assistance Team.”(ESAT) but this could only be done by police or federal agents or by an attorney.
So I called one of my lawyers and told him to do it. He attempted the request to the surveillance team and was told he would need to file a subpoena and he said it sounded as though they were going to fight it. With the startup and enough legal fees already, I didn’t pursue that avenue… but I thought about it long and hard.
Moving forward I assumed I was traced but I also have been working long hours with little time to eat in order to do all the work I have as an entrepreneur in a high-risk industry with many hurdles to cross – so I started to question my sense of reality. Was I being paranoid? Am I delusional?? I’ve been having so many issues with my phone calls despite changing phones that I wondered if it was related. But maybe I was losing my sanity! Regardless, I had to work, crazy or not, and I ignored my imaginary friends on the line while they listened to my very legal and ethical phone calls.
But last week this story uncovered that Delaware police officers have been secretly using electronic devices called StingRays to intercept mobile phone call data. They can record phone conversations and have a radius in the miles.
That’s when it hit me. It wasn’t NSA or feds monitoring me, it was the local police! I’ve personally approached groups of police officers at political rallys and introduced myself as Dr. Roman a medical marijuana specialist. I’ve handed them my card and offered my help if they had any sick relatives or friends that could use it. I’ve had them investigate and successfully return stolen camera equipment from my office. Who better to spy on than the East Coast’s foremost medical marijuana physician located firmly in downtown Wilmington, murder capital USA??
Doing some research, I found that Verizon has a history of working with government authorities to conduct full investigations using the technology. In the case I linked to, Verizon helped track down the location of a victim’s mobile data internet device, then reprogram it to receive calls from the FBI that would drop its internet service and send data to Verizon towers, which was then handed over to the feds. Like in my office actually, this resulted in lost internet signal (for me this happens sometimes every 15-20 minutes it seems). Naturally, he would restart the card for service and the window to retrieve information was small, so police drove in circles around his home with the Stingray to repeat the service interruptions.
Unrelated but equally disturbing is Verizon’s supercookie tracking of mobile data from its users without disclosure and for personal gain. A quick search for ESAT on google results in this pdf file by Verizon about its Law Enforcement Resource Team (LERT), which ESAT is a part of. The file warns of any unlawful distribution but the information is clearly public now. It shows how they charge the government and how little is needed to approve court orders for this purpose. I think this is the tip of an iceberg and considering those policies are dated 2006… what the hell are they capable of ten years later!? Especially if you look at the history of these subsidiary corporations they are using related to this.
So I’m more convinced now that indeed as a medical marijuana doctor I am being stripped of my right to privacy by government surveillance and even worse, so are my patients of their HIPAA rights. This should serve as a PSA to all medical marijuana clinics and the entire industry that they too are probably being monitored. My only proof is that recording I have and I’d like to make it public even without the whispering because it is a recording of the moment I realized as a medical practice owner the reality of unethical cost of American healthcare costs and their manipulation by HMO conglomerates. It’s MY personal Ah HAH moment. Well, more like Oh. WOW. THATS TERRIBLE…. moment. This is how things are?!? It would be very educational for the public to hear a physicians acquaintance with healthcare upon assuming the role of a healthcare business owner. This is the stuff that even doctors don’t really register because we are so insulated from it but now I see how physicians can be compartmentalized into their little busy world, too busy and financially secure to look around them at what’s happening! In the business world, people move up the ladder by slacking off and living life easy. Yet, doctors work their asses off. So much so we don’t have time to do anything else. And now I kind of get it. The reason it’s become so tedious to work as a doctor, with all the rules by insurances and the ICD10 codes for billing, etc., is that it puts doctors in their place while their autonomy is pulled from under their feet like a rug so corporations control the costs of their care. I know it’s a complicated topic but I think this is a component of it and it sheds light on why doctors don’t unite against the status quo.
The other reason I want to post publicly that phone call is to of course see what people think about my suspicion that indeed there was a third party whispering in the background confirming illegal surveillance. If I’m supported in my belief that the recording was not just noise or other artifact, then it would provide a clear picture of medical marijuana clinics being targeted. The clinic only opened last October so it’s not like much has happened to warrant phone tapping aside from the medical cannabis. It also would add weight to my opinion that other states are doing the same and definitely have the ability to.
How risky is it to post the conversation assuming any identifiers are removed, it’s DE which is borderline all party consent state for phone recordings, the topics and opinions being discussed, my field of expertise, and the fact that I asked if its okay that I’m recording the conversation AFTER everything was said and the call was disrupted? I’m a big proponent of freedom of information and honor those who release information at their own risk to inform the public. I have a lawyer but frankly I can’t afford him going into this in detail and he already recommended I don’t do that mainly for HIPAA reasons, which I am not concerned of if I exclude two names and maybe one or two other identifiers. Do I need consent from the other to disclose the audio publicly? I’m gonna try to ask for that if I need to, but who is responsible for the other side of the call? The woman I spoke with or her company? I think only her if I exclude her initial phone greeting. Right?
Let me know guys. You rock. Go Delaware! The First State. This grassroots movement I’m incorporating into medical care needs support from the public. Especially me on a physical body level. Patient satisfaction and public support is all that keeps me going. I got nothing else.