Will EHR adoption increase medical identity theft?
It would seem that having all your medical/health information in one place would be a good thing. You wouldn’t have to go from doctor to doctor requesting medical charts and cutting through red tape to access your “private” files. However, we all know from experience that the Internet is not always the safest place to store information – identity theft is running rampant throughout the country with thieves stealing your information right off of your personal computer.
President Obama, following former President Bush’s initiatives, is pushing for everyone to have an EHR or EMR by 2014 (EHR = Electronic Health Record, EMR = Electronic Medical Record). However the problem with this implementation is that currently, most hospitals do not have adequate safeguards to protect highly private and highly valuable medical information (medical identity information averages $50 per identity; a SSN will net thieves only $1).
In many cases, medical identity theft is committed by individuals with inside access to medical information – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospital workers etc. By allowing information to essentially “flow freely” throughout the healthcare marketplace we are opening ourselves up to fraudsters and thieves and making medical identity theft even easier than it was before.
According to the World Privacy Forum, 3% of all identity theft victims in the U.S. or 250,000 Americans reported that their identity had been used fraudulently to obtain medical treatment, services or supplies. The World Privacy Forum asserts that this number will only increase in the future.
While EHR adoption will push our country in the right direction in terms of quality of healthcare, what steps are we taking to prevent our most private information from being stolen and used against us?