Medical ID theft: Safeguards for practices and patients

Healthcare-related identity theft is on the rise, accounting for 43 percent of all identity thefts reported nationally in 2013, according to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center, FierceHealthPayer reported.

Health information technology breaches are particularly prevalent, FierceHealthIT noted. More than half of such breaches involved computer or other electronic device theft, according to Kaiser Health News. Another 20 percent of medical identify thefts result from someone accessing and sharing information without permission; while 14 percent of breaches are hacker-related.

"We say encrypt, encrypt, encrypt," Rachel Seeger, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services' Office For Civil Rights, told KHN.

Another common scenario is when criminals obtain information directly from victims, according to The Washington Post. For example, fraudsters might invite seniors to bogus health fairs where they ask patients to show their Medicare cards.

To protect your patients from this costly and medically dangerous crime, pass along the following tips:

  • Do not allow anyone to "borrow" your health insurance card to obtain care. Doing so is not only a crime but could also compromise your medical record with inaccurate information that could affect your treatment.

  • Never give your medical identity credentials to telemarketers, surveyors or anyone but those with a legitimate reason for this information, such as the billing person at your doctor's office.

  • Review your "Explanation of Benefits" or "Medicare Summary Notice" documents to make sure that you actually received the services and products listed. Ask to see your medical record if anything looks awry.

  • Refrain from posting detailed medical information on social media, as imposters could use that information to obtain services that won't look suspicious to insurers.

To learn more:
- read the article from KHN
- see the story from the Post