Why the healthcare sector is a prime target for identity theft

Greater use of electronic health records, black market demand for protected health information and a fragmented healthcare system contribute to rising rates of medical identity theft, Fortune reported. Last year, the medical sector experienced more data breaches than any other, and experts expect that trend to continue. Fortune examined what's behind it.

Implementing the Affordable Care Act increased the insured population and created more electronic health records. And more digital identities to manage means new opportunities for criminals.

Medical records contain a bevy of information for thieves of all stripes, Fortune reported, and criminals are sharing the wealth downstream. After using credit card or Social Security information from a stolen file to commit financial fraud, for example, thieves may sell other data. If a stolen file reveals that a patient has cancer, thieves may sell that information to data brokers. Then brokers sell it to marketers who target cancer patients, the article noted. As a result, protected health information is worth more than banking credentials on the black market, as FierceHealthPayer: AntiFraud reported.

In more complex scams, thieves use information on victims' unique bodily characteristics to create fake visas and passports. If the target is a VIP with access to high-security systems, for example, knowing the person's physical characteristics can help criminals infiltrate those systems.     

Moreover, "automation has come to the healthcare industry late," Rick Kam, president of the software company ID Experts, told Fortune. "And honestly, healthcare has been slow to adopt new innovation around medical records."

Vendors are developing healthcare technologies similar to the types of monitoring used to fight financial identity theft, Kaiser Permanente's Marita Janiga told FierceHealthPayer: AntiFraud in an exclusive interview, and stakeholders should explore these.   

Finally, fragmented patient information across the healthcare system contributes to identity theft. Different stakeholders hold "little bits and pieces of data" on members but fail to coordinate with one another and see the big picture, Kam added.

For more:
- read the Fortune article