Recent reports indicate that one-third of health care organizations have reported medical identity theft. It’s the fastest growing form of identity theft.
If the problem of medical identity theft is increasing, what can members of the health care community do to prevent it?
Physicians’ practice employees must be committed to protecting the privacy of patient information, even to the point of going beyond was is required by HIPAA. This includes training employees on how to protect information, while making sure they know how and when to access the information when appropriate.
Some health care systems are set up or are setting up to use biometrics, like fingerprint or eye scanners, to confirm patient identity. But making it standard policy to check photo identification at each patient visit is effective enough, if it’s done each and every time.
Checking IDs seems like such an elementary thing, yet many physicians’ offices don’t check every time, for fear of offending regular patients. But doings so, along with keeping a copy of that ID on file, can go along way toward prevention of medical identity theft.
For physicians, it isn’t just a safety issue – it’s also an ethical issue. Protecting patient information is crucial, but so is treating patients who need care. Doctors have an ethical obligation to treat the sick. Even if their IDs don’t match up. So what does a doctor do in this case – protect the identity of a patient and catch the bad guy, or treat someone who needs it, in spite of issues with identification?
The right thing to do would be to treat the thief, and contact law enforcement. Treat a cold – call the cops. Protecting patients from medical identity theft is too important.