Medical errors can also mean medical identity theft—accounting for 43 percent of all 2013 identity theft in the U.S., says the Identity Theft Resource Center. Medical identity theft kicks other forms of ID theft to the curb: banking, finance, government, military and education.
Fraudsters invade health data to illegally obtain prescription drugs, services or devices and to get insurance reimbursements.
Making the situation stiffer is the Affordable Care Act, as the implementation of federal and state health insurance exchanges involved malfunctioning online marketplaces. Plus, the Act promotes digitizing medical records, and you know what that means.
What about an honor system?
HIPAA—Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (now you know why it’s not “HIPPA”)—and the HITECH Act define what health care providers must do to protect patient privacy. Violations of these acts can net stiff fines including up to 10 years’ prison time.
However, HIPAA has exceptions, such as “public health activities” and “health oversight activities” in which confidential information is shared. People who know that HIPAA isn’t airtight can be turned off from revealing they have an STD or a psychiatric disorder to their doctor unless absolutely necessary.
Patients must be notified by their health plan, medical institution or medical provider when it’s been determined that their health information has been breached, says HITECH law. The Department of Human Health must also be notified. The Department will reveal breaches that involve at least 500 patients.
The discovery, though, doesn’t solve the problem that has already occurred: the fallout from the leak. It’s fairly straightforward to have the right information put back in a patient’s files, but another story to get the fraudulent information taken out, due to fear of medical liability.
The time is now to bring attention to how a business is protecting their clients’ data. The public wants to know their information is safe and the companies they hand it over to are doing everything possible to protect it.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.