Patients Fear Your Disapproval; Thieves Eye Your Medical Records; More

Marcy Tolkoff, JD

Disclosures

December 26, 2014

In This Article

Thieves Are Eyeing Your Medical Records

Financial identity thieves use data to get credit and make purchases, but with medical identity theft, criminals would rather sell that information on the black market. And there is no shortage of buyers. Thieves can sell personal health information (PHI) to data brokers who in turn sell it to a wide variety of customers, such as marketers for pharmaceutical companies that may be trying to target those with a certain disease.

Medical identity fraud is the fastest-growing type of theft, with criminals monetizing medical identities at a rate 20-50 times faster than those for financial identities, according to a white paper by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance called "The Growing Threat of Medical Identity Fraud: A Call to Action,"[2] which includes findings from studies by the cyber security research firm the Ponemon Institute.

"More than just a financial issue, it's the most critical patient safety challenge of our time," says Christine Arevalo, vice president of Healthcare Fraud Solutions, speaking on behalf of data breach response firm ID Experts, adding that corrupted health records mean physicians may be working off a file riddled with bad information. This could perhaps include another patient's blood type or the wrong allergy data.

The medical community has become increasingly vulnerable to this crime as a result of the growing digitization of health data due to EHR and health exchanges, says the report. Data security lags behind and has helped make the medical sector easy prey. Another reason for the rapid-fire growth is that healthcare segments don't "talk to" one another. A patient who is transported to a hospital in an ambulance, seen in an emergency room, and then admitted can end up with three different medical records.

What can you do? Make your staff aware. Provide for greater security of your computer system and medical paperwork. And ask questions if something seems amiss, such as if physical characteristics (eg, height, weight) in a medical record do not match the patient's appearance.

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