Whether digital or paper records, personal health information should be handled with the same vigilance as financial records to guard against theft and fraud.

Although often taken for granted, good health is treasure without equal.

Personal health information is also valuable, and lack of care with paper and electronic records could be costly.

Among the people who traffic in stolen data, health information is generally the most highly valued, said Jim Weldon, North Mississippi Health Services chief information officer.

“It’s so data rich,” Weldon said. “They call it the honey pot of records.”

Health data can be used for more traditional identity fraud where information is used to open accounts without an individual’s knowledge. It also is increasingly used to obtain medical care.

As with traditional identity theft, the target often is unaware until they get a bill for medical services they didn’t receive.

But the risk isn’t only to the pocket book with medical insurance fraud. Co-mingling the medical records of two people could create dangerous situations where confusion over allergies, previous surgeries and medications could result in the wrong care.

Handle with care
Personal health information should be handled with the same care as bank records and credit card numbers. They are valuable and vulnerable.

Paper

  • Keep together in a safe place away from prying eyes.
  • Mail payments and communications to health providers from post office, not home mail box.
  • Shred to dispose, taking care to separate personal information and health information.
  • Keep personal information separate from health information if keeping a written health record.

Digital

  • Personal health information should be encrypted and password protected if storing on computer or smart phone.
  • Do not use public wifi to access or manage health information.
  • Be wary of exchanging private health information via unsecure text and email, especially if you did not initiate the contact.

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By Michaela Gibson, Morris Daily Journal, January 19, 2018