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Medical Identity Theft: Tips for Preventing It

Medical Identity

Medical identity theft can cost a nation upto $68 billion annually and significantly interfere with your healthcare and medical records. It can also cause personal financial damages. That’s why securing Protected Health Information (PHI) is important. 

So, you may be wondering how medical identity theft occurs. It happens when someone steals your personal information and illegally uses your medical information. 

For example, a criminal can access medical information like your prescription ID, health insurance information, name, or patient ID. They use this information to submit false healthcare claims or to receive medical services. 

Such attacks are more impactful in healthcare, with a success rate of 66%. The high rate of medical identity theft is because medical records have a higher value in the black market. This means organizations need to put more preventive measures in place to combat medical records theft. These preventive measures include.

  1.  Compliance with Regulation Authorities

Compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) requirements ensures PHI is safe. HIPAA requirements ensure the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of patient records in an organization. 

Understanding these requirements and knowing the consequences of HIPAA violations is essential. The penalties of lack of compliance can be costly to an organization and an individual, depending on the violation. Organizations get expert support and technology to ensure they are HIPAA compliant. 

The experts also will assess your compliance requirements depending on your goals and begin ensuring your company is HIPAA compliant. Experts working with your company’s team will ensure employees can access and meet your privacy framework. This helps prevent medical identity theft.

  1. Modern Patient Management Technology

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Investing in modern technology provides better security for healthcare information. Organizations can securely receive patient data and process and store/send it securely. Some of the security measures that modern technology provides include:

  • Data Encryption

Encryption provides a useful data protection solution for healthcare organizations. Encrypted data is medical information that is jumbled up using a code. The data is meaningless and can only be deciphered using a specific key. If hackers access this kind of data while it is in transit or at rest, the data will not be useful to them. 

HIPAA recommends data protection for data stored in disks or USB drives, also known as data at rest. Organizations can also use encryption when sending data. This kind of data is known as in transit.

  • Biometrics

Organizations can use unique patient attributes to ensure patient information is not accessible to unauthorized users. For example, a biometric system can read patients’ eyes, fingerprints, or facial features to identify their medical records. 

These are unique features that ensure accuracy in identifying the correct records. It eliminates the problem of duplicate patient records. Biometric systems are accurate and help to prevent hackers from accessing PHI and stealing patients’ identities. 

  • Implement Patient Information Usage and Control

Implementing patient information monitoring and control measures ensures only authorized users access medical information. It also monitors and controls the user’s activities on sensitive health information. 

For example, protective information controls ensure that data users do not perform any risky or malicious activity on patient records. You can flag or block specific activities in real-time using modern technology. 

Some of the activities you can decide to block include uploading data, sending emails without authorization, or copying patients’ data to an external drive. Such measures help keep sensitive patient data secure and away from medical identity theft.

  1. Conduct Regular Risk Assessment

It should be agreed that it is important to have systems in place to identify the causes of an incident after it occurs, but it’s even better to conduct regular assessments. Regular risk assessments is a proactive measure that helps identify weak points and vulnerabilities in an information system. These vulnerabilities can lead to medical identity theft. 

Perform risk assessments in your organization and business partners, business associates and vendors. Proactively identifying potential risks and implementing mitigation measures helps to avoid medical identity theft. 

Organizations can also avoid costly data loss, reputation damage, and high penalties from regulatory authorities.

  1. Automate Patient Enrolment Process

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Automating the patient enrolment process reduces the chances of criminals accessing and using data like names or dates of birth. The most secure way to onboard a patient is through automating data capture. This reduces duplication of records and provides accuracy and convinience in capturing information. 

Staff collecting patient information in your organization can scan patient forms, automatically capture emails and faxes, and add them to the patient records. This automation process provides a streamlined workflow that’s safe and easy for employees to perform and challenging for anyone else to hack into. 

  1. Educate Employees and Implement Best Practices

Malicious data breaches can sometimes happen because of human error. Employee education can help minimize these errors and keep PHI safe. 

Make sure new employees are trained, and all employees implement best practices to help reduce errors. For example, training can help eliminate cases of sending emails with sensitive patient information without authorization. It can help employees understand how leaving electronic devices with sensitive information open or exposed or posting sensitive information on social media can lead to identity theft. 

All staff handling patient records should also understand the password policy of their organization. For example, not sharing passwords and using a 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) to secure medical records.

Staff will also know how to identify suspicious behavior and what to do when there is a data breach. Continuously training employees and conducting refresher trainings for other employees helps to provide current and relevant data security information. .

Keeping Medical Records Safe

Medical identity theft keeps rising and posing a threat to patients’ safety. Healthcare providers are responsible for ensuring patients’ information is always safe. 

Whether in transit or at rest, sensitive patient data should not be accessible to unauthorized people. Organizations can use preventive measures like modern technologies, information usage, and control to secure such medical information. 

Other measures include compliance, regular risk assessment, automation of patient registration, and employee education. These measures help to save the patient and organization’s time and money.

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