As medical identity theft continues to rise, so does its impact on the healthcare industry and patients. Prevention is possible with the right health IT solutions.
In 2014, nearly 9 million patient health records were breached in 164 reported incidents. By March 2015, that number had increased tenfold. In fact, it is estimated that one in three health records were compromised during 2016 alone.1 Records can be physically stolen from medical facilities, so it is important to prevent data acquisition in this manner. But with the prevalence of health IT systems in place, cybersecurity—not just on the backend, but with a complete security ring around data—is absolutely critical to eliminate the prevalence of medical identity theft. Health systems must implement a 360-degree risk mitigation strategy to cover every potential breach.
The impact of medical identity theft
Protected health information (PHI) is highly valuable on the black market because it can be used to obtain pharmaceuticals, commit insurance fraud or obtain medical care through channels such as Medicaid and Medicare. In fact, according to the FBI, stolen health information currently fetches $60-$70 on the black market, while a Social Security number goes for less than $1.
The fiscal impact of medical identity theft is considerable, generating losses to the health industry of more than $30 billion each year. However, patients also sustain financial consequences of fraud, having to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve these issues.
The current thinking in the industry today is that performing computer-generated data conciliation processes in the backend increases the risk of data corruption. However, the entire focus of medical identity theft is to emulate another person. While many organizations feel they don’t have a medical identity theft problem (the “it’s-not-me” belief), the astronomical costs tell otherwise.
But the costs are not just monetary. Medical identity theft can cause delays in treatment, misdiagnosis and inappropriate care. The health data of the imposter is merged with the identity of the real patient, creating serious inaccuracies in health data that can be life-threatening.
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By Healthcare IT News, February 20, 2017, Tom Foley, Director of Global Health Solutions Strategy, Lenovo Health