Patients Worry about Medical Identity Theft
September 16, 2015
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that healthcare data breaches are on the rise, which has left consumers worried about medical identity fraud. From 2010 to 2013, nearly 1,000 large healthcare data breaches have exposed more than 29 million individual health records. More than half of these are due to a loss of files – either paper records, or files stored on flash drives and laptops. These breaches involved unauthorized acquisitions, accesses, uses or disclosures. The research study looked at breaches of unencrypted health data that was reported by organizations that had to abide by HIPAA regulations. The study included significant healthcare data breaches that affected at least 500 individuals, and where data could be traced back to individual patients.
According to the report, the number of healthcare data breaches rose by 10% from 2010 to 2011. In 2010, there were 214 breaches, while in 2011 there were 236. In 2013, the breaches increased to 265. The report found that as many as 30 million records were compromised in a four year span due to these breaches. If each record represents an individual patient, then 1 out of every 11 Americans was the victim of a healthcare data breach in that time period.
Criminals used hacking to obtain health records in only 12 to 27% of incidents. The majority of these data breaches involved the physical theft of electronic health records. One way healthcare organizations can decrease the chances of a breach is by mandating that their employees to keep all devices with private patient data in the building. This would prevent employees from walking out of the building with a flash drive loaded with data, and accidentally losing it. Patient data should also be encrypted to make it harder to access. If healthcare employees have to move patient data around in a flash drive, the flash drive should be encrypted and have a password. Healthcare facilities and insurance companies also have to worry about HIPAA violations. If a security breach occurs and patient information gets leaked, the organizations then have to worry about lawsuits. The research study found that healthcare breaches will increase as facilities use more cloud based services, gene sequencing and other health-related technology.
As the threat of healthcare breaches increases, patients are worried about keeping their identities safe. The issue with medical identity theft is that individually identifiable healthcare data can’t be easily changed. With financial identity theft, people can put a security freeze on their credit files. With medical identity theft, victims have to deal with securing their financial information and their personal medical information. Medical identity theft can significantly affect a patient’s finances. Victims have to deal with fraudulent bills sent to their health insurer, and they have to spend money on resolving the issues that come with medical identity theft. Some victims even have to pay more to get their medical insurance reinstated.
The large amount of healthcare data breaches that have occurred in the past four years have patients worried. Some worried patients now ask their doctors how their practice keeps information secure, and factor that in when they choose a doctor to visit. Now practices have to assure their patients that their information is safe. To help prevent medical identity theft, healthcare facilities can use identity verification software. With automatic identity authentication, healthcare facilities can quickly verify a patient’s identity using their driver’s license and health insurance card. These precautionary measures will keep patients safe from medical identity fraud.