There have been some recent news stories about a new type of identity theft – people (presumably without health insurance) are able to get coverage by stealing your insurance information and posing as you during hospital visits. Alternatively, hospital employees can steal your information and sell it on the black market. Some people estimate that medical identity theft may account for up to 3% of all identity theft in the US. Yikes! I even blogged about an infuriating previous encounter I had with a medical identity thief in the inner city.
I had my identity stolen once about 7 years ago – it was a very sobering experience. One day my credit card company called me to ask about some suspicious activity… which led to tracing events and purchases with eventual police involvement, further investigations, culminating in a Nigerian crime ring apprehended in upstate New York. Wild stuff. But I still use credit cards.
I would hate to think that medical identify theft could stall our good faith efforts at streamlining the healthcare experience. Sharing information securely and safely is a critical piece of the continuity of care and quality puzzle. Will there be hackers? Probably. Will some people be victimized? No doubt. But the vast majority of folks (if appropriate precautions are taken) will benefit from having all their providers on the same page, their medications, tests and procedures de-duped, and accurate records available for loved ones in emergencies.
The elephant in the room is whether or not people will be excluded from insurance coverage based on their electronic health records. To me, that’s scarier than potential medical identity theft, and probably the largest reason why patients are hesitant to digitize their health information (i.e. use PHRs).
What do you think about this elephant? Is there anything that can be done about him?This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.