There are a number of reasons strong identification is needed in health care. Making sure the correct electronic health record is connected to the correct patient would be the foremost but there’s also the growing crime of medical identity theft, according to a report released from the Smart Card Alliance.
“Many authorities consider medical identity theft one of the fastest growing crimes in America,” the report states. “With the digital age of health care upon us, the risks are expected to increase as electronic medical records become more prevalent and the exchange of this data over expanding networks becomes more pervasive. Heightened concern over personal data security and privacy highlight the importance of having secure electronic medical identities.
Nearly 1.5 million Americans have been victims of medical identity theft with an estimated total cost of $28.6 billion–or approximately $20,000 per victim, according to a recent Ponemon Institute study.
There is other evidence of medical identity theft issued as well. The Department of Health and Human services also allocated $1.7 billion for fraud detection in the 2011 and an Identity Theft Resource Center 2009 Data Breach Stats show 68 reported health care data breaches in the U.S. that put more than 11.3 million patient records at risk of exposure.
Patients whose medical identities are stolen face various, long-lasting effects. Fraudulent health care events can leave erroneous data in medical records. This incorrect data–like information about tests, diagnoses and procedures–can impact future health care and insurance coverage and costs.
Patients are often unaware of medical identity theft until a curious bill or a surprising line of questioning by a doctor exposes the issue. Then, the burden of proof is often with the patient and it can be difficult to get the patient’s legitimate medical records cleaned up. The consequences can also be life threatening and can lead to serious medical errors and fatalities.
The way to stop medical identity theft and identity confusion is to improve patient identification and provide enhanced data protection. Strong authentication and data encryption are methods that can achieve these goals, the Alliance report states.
“To address medical identity theft, solutions need to provide higher levels of assurance than today’s processes, whether the interactions are in person or remote. Identity management is a crucial foundation for health care, and solutions that incorporate smart card technology can be used to address the security and privacy challenges facing the industry. This foundation can be put in place without reinventing the wheel. The federal government has already established a set of best practices, standards and technology solutions for smart card-based identity management and authentication that can be adapted to and leveraged by the health care industry.”
Read the full Smart Card Alliance publication here.