One of the greatest things about my clients, and the number one reason I love to write for them, is because they are solving real problems for all of us, and it impacts our daily lives. Sometimes, we can’t see this benefit on the surface. For example, how does an electronic service provider, EasyIT, busy implementing systems for businesses, save your life? By making sure your doctor and your hospital keep your health records safe.
By 2014, every American will have an electronic medical record associated with their healthcare, but who’s making sure that information will be secure? Nearly 1.5 million Americans were victims of medical identity theft in 2010, according to a study by the Poneman Institute, and sponsored by Experian’s ProtectMyID™, Poneman study.
How serious? The average total cost to resolve an identity theft-related incident, according to the survey, came to about $20,000. More than half of the victims said they had to pay for the care they didn’t receive out of their own pocket to restore coverage. Nearly half said they lost their health care coverage as a result of the incident, while nearly one-third said their insurance premiums went up after the event. More frightening, is that erroneous health information gets recorded on the patient’s account — including the wrong blood type.
Yet, the study found that nine out of ten U.S. consumers know nothing about medical identity theft. What’s more, nearly half of all victims took no steps to protect themselves after the crime.
“As more and more hospitals and physicians switch from paper to electronic health records, cyber thieves have realized that stealing electronic health records means money in the bank,” says Kurt W. Hoeft, owner of Columbus-based EasyIT.
Yet, the importance of electronic health records are a natural part of the evolution of medicine and health care. The stakes here are literally life and death, and there is too much technical, complex and time-sensitive information in today’s health care system not to recognize the life-saving necessity of instant access to patient data. So important, that on October 1, 2009, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced government grants, totaling $1.162 billion, to help hospitals and other health care providers implement and use electronic health records.
The Ponemon report points to these seven threats to electronic health information:
- Virus and malware infections
- Malicious employee attacks
- Data breaches
- Social engineering
- Organized cyber-crimes
- Regulatory challenges
- Identity and authentication failures.
Many times you’ll never know you are a victim of Medical ID theft, until after the damage has been done – when you try to make a legitimate insurance claim and your health plan says you’ve reached your limit on benefits, or you are contacted by a debt collector about services you never received.
“The message to physicians is clear: Once patient data goes electronic, you have no choice but to be diligent in strengthening the security, integrity and privacy of this vital data,” says Hoeft. “Your practice must be diligent in securing both the privacy and the integrity of your patient’s data.”