Depending upon how the stolen medical identity is used, the consequences for the victim can range from financial, social to health related. They may involve:
- Exposure of personal information like social security numbers, credit card numbers leading to financial losses and/or false billing charges.
- Exposure of medical insurance policy number-leading to impersonation and fraudulent medical billing.
- Stolen identity when used for receiving medical care can lead to the victims’ record being corrupted with someone else’s information. Imagine critical information about allergies deleted from your record or false information getting added that affects your care when you need medical attention.
- Possible social stigma and embarrassment if certain medical details appear on the internet.
- Denial of insurance.
- Loss of reputation.
- Loss of time and never ending cycle of haggling with insurance companies, trying to get the records corrected as wrong records may be in different healthcare systems that are not connected with each other.
- Denial of access to your own records if the thief has changed some critical information.
“It took several months for one physician to learn that she was a victim of medical identity theft. This realization occurred after patients reported that her name was on their Medicare Summary Notices although they had never seen her. A fraudulent clinical practice had enrolled in Medicare using her name without her knowledge. Another physician had retired from clinical practice but decided to work part-time. Nearly 2 years after sending out job applications, he was asked by Medicare to return more than $350 000 in overpayments made to a practice he had interviewed with but never joined. The Department of Treasury began to garnish his Social Security payments for unpaid debts.”
As healthcare moves from paper to the digital age, technology supported by strict enforcement of reasonable policies, procedures and processes designed to protect patient data, is needed to ensure the security and integrity of patient data. How does medical identity theft commonly occur? What measures can one take to prevent it? I will discuss these questions in upcoming blogs.