hospital-data-breach-costs-millions

Hospital data breach results in an expensive lawsuit – Is yours next?

Hospital data breaches have been rampant for quite some years now. Last year’s figures alone are quite frightening- one states that 41 million patient records were exposed, essentially making the patients potential victims of medical identity theft. Thus, both data breaches and medical identity theft has been in the limelight. These unwanted nuisances have turned the attention towards healthcare providers who are suffering from these events. One such provider is the University of Missouri Health Care (MU Health), who suffered a data breach of 14 thousand records and also were hit by a lawsuit by the impacted patients.

This happened back in 2019. The provider was sued by patients who were affected by the breach in question. The patients reasoned that the breach had made their sensitive records prone to medical identity theft- their fear was not irrational.

hospital-data-breach-costs-millions

The actual story

On the first day of May 2019, the healthcare provider found out that an outsider somehow accessed email accounts of two employees for more than a week. Following the incident, the concerned officials said that they took the necessary steps to secure both accounts. 

It was not disclosed how the hacker got access and whether it was a phishing incident or not. However, the healthcare provider revealed that the affected account had sensitive patient data stored, such as names, DOB, medical record numbers, insurance details, as well as treatment details. The hospital data breach even consisted of the Social Security Numbers of some unlucky patients.

The data breach, fortunately, did not affect all the patients of MU Health. However, it did affect around 14,400 patients, which is no small number. As soon as the provider’s inquiry ended regarding the breach on the twenty-seventh day of July, it started to inform the patients regarding the breach. Oddly, the organization notified the patients after the required timeframe of 60 days as per HIPAA regulations.

The aftermath

Within the same week of notifying the patients, one of them filed a lawsuit, followed by 19 others. Their reason was very simple- the data breach would likely result in medical identity theft and lead to lower-quality care. The patients also believed that they were paying quite an amount of money, and thus, MU Health should add stringent security with their services.

Hospital data breach results in an expensive lawsuit - Is yours next?
Hospital data breach results in an expensive lawsuit - Is yours next?

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

Hospital data breaches can arm hackers with enough information to obtain medical services assigned to the patients. The hackers could either expose the data, sell it, or use it for themselves. These could lead to the patients paying for healthcare services they did not avail. These could also become denied claims for healthcare providers. Whichever way one looks at it, data breaches and medical identity theft is extremely undesirable. 

How do hospitals prevent medical identity theft?

Although it is quite prevalent nowadays, medical identity theft can actually be prevented. One way to make sure that the medical records are safe is by locking them with a key that hackers cannot forge. That is exactly what RightPatient does. It is a biometric patient identification platform that locks the patient records with their biometric data. Once the platform attaches the medical record with the data during enrollment, a third party cannot come and claim that record, preventing medical identity theft and ensuring accurate patient identification. RightPatient has been preventing medical identity theft for leading hospitals such as University Health Care System and Grady Health System.

patient-identification-system-helps-reduce-opioid-crisis

How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

Addiction to opioids is a serious problem that is plaguing society. As a result, treatment of this needs to be taken as soon as possible because it becomes very difficult to overcome this,  at later stages. Attending opioid drug treatment centers in Columbus Ohio is the best way to stay away from the addiction of opioids and recover completely. There you will get the best assistance and guidance from the experts that force you to defeat your craving for taking opioids. It is very difficult to control your urge at your home. But in these places, you can easily quit your bad habits. The reason being, in rehab centers, you get chances to meet like-minded people who also want to quit their opioid habits.

Common signs to identify patients with opioid abuse

  • The inability to control opioid use
  • Uncontrollable cravings
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms
  • Decreased libido
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Changes in exercise habits
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Stealing from family, friends or businesses
  • New financial difficulties

patient-identification-system-helps-reduce-opioid-crisis

How can biometric patient identification help detect and prevent a patient’s opioid addiction?

In today’s world, a biometric patient identification platform is one of the best and secure way to identify patient’s data integrity. Global healthcare has moved away from its dependence on paper-based therapeutic studies toward the use of electronic health records (EHR). 

So if you or your loved one is abusing opioids, by using a biometric patient identification platform like RightPatient, hospitals can easily identify the patient’s addiction towards opioids. It can red-flag once they go through the identification process, detecting whether they are assuming someone else’s identity or not to attain the drugs. Several hospitals are using RightPatient to improve revenue cycle, enhance patient safety, and reduce the creation of duplicate records as well. 

Here, we have mentioned some benefits of utilizing this to instantly identify patients’ data integrity that includes:

  • Detailed and up-to-date data at the time of service
  • Highly coordinated and effective care
  • Safe sharing of patient information among doctors
  • More infrequent medical mistakes
  • More reliable prescribing practices

These advantages depend on clinicians, hospitals, and other healthcare departments to carefully test patient identifications during all therapeutic encounters. 

If you or your loved one is addicted, kindly visit an opioid treatment center that helps you know how to abstain yourself from the use of opioid and lead a simple life. Although there are many approaches to treat your addiction to opioids, enrolling yourself in a good rehab center is, of course, the most effective way. These centers offer you many programs according to your needs and help you to recover completely. When you make a decision in your mind to attend an opioid treatment program, make sure that you select the best one available in your locality. For this, you need to conduct thorough research and find out the one that suits your requirements as well as budget.

patient-identification-system-prevents-medical-identity-theft

There is a number of opioid rehabilitation centers in Philadelphia that offer excellent rehabilitation facilities and numerous programs including medical and behavioral treatments. These programs motivate you to quit taking opioids. These centers are located in almost all states of the USA. You can easily find rehab centers in your state that offer excellent facilities. If location is not a problem and geographical limits are not a major concern, you can also look for rehabs outside the USA. This provides you with a wide range of options to choose from. The main benefit of this is that you’ll be able to take advantage of the best rehab facilities for your loved ones in the event you are not satisfied with the existing opioid rehab centers in your state. There are several international options available in other countries too. You can avail the best of the bests. Before enrolling yourself in an opioid center, ensure that you make proper inquiries about their facilities, programs, and fee structure.

Facilities offered in opioid centers

  1. Opioid centers are committed to offering you expert advice and assistance which will help you to defeat your craving for taking opioids. They will also help you to understand the harmful effects of the opioid on your health as well as your family and social life.
  2. Opioid rehab centers offer gender-specific programs and treatments customized according to your specific needs. These programs encourage you to stay away from opioid use and you can live a sober life with your family.
  3. Most of the centers offer you medication treatment that reduces the craving of opioid consumption in you. They employ doctors, physicians, and specialists so that they can offer you proper medication to treat your addiction.
  4. Apart from this, they have several other programs including dual diagnosis, intensive outpatient, sober living, professionals programs, and family outreach programs to inspire you to defeat your urge and live a healthy and happy life.
  5. The rehab centers also have in-house psychologists, trainers, and psychiatrists to help and motivate you to stay away from opioids. They show you the right path following which you can lead a happy and fulfilling life.
  6. They also organize alumni programs where you can meet those individuals who came there as patients and now leading a fulfilling and healthy life.
How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?
How to identify patients with opioid abuse or addiction treatment?

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

Opioid rehab centers are the best places to treat addiction. They not only teach you how to stay away from them, but also help you understand their bad effects on your personal, social, and family life. The experts in rehab centers motivate you to defeat your urge of taking opioids and show you the brighter side of life. You can completely rely on their services as they always encourage you to live a healthy, sober, and fulfilling life.

rightpatient-benefits-medical-identity-theft-healthcare-red-flags-rule-rightpatient

How RightPatient Benefits Medical Identity Theft and the Healthcare Red Flags Rule

It’s no secret that medical identity theft is on the rise. Over 2 million Americans each year become victims of medical identity theft, and, unfortunately, that number only continues to grow.

It’s growing for a number of reasons. First of all, there were more healthcare data breaches in 2019 than the previous three years combined. These breaches compromised the medical records of over 40 million Americans

Let’s consider this in light of rising healthcare costs and a worsening opioid epidemic. These facts create a ripe market for medical identity theft. Patient identity data is readily available on the black market and there is a ton of demand for it.

rightpatient-benefits-medical-identity-theft-healthcare-red-flags-rule-rightpatient

When medical identity theft is perpetrated, patients and healthcare providers suffer. Victims can face bills for services they never received, incorrect treatment data mixed into their medical record can affect future outcomes and quality of care, and the costs to restore their identity can be prohibitive. 

Healthcare providers lose millions of dollars for services that will never be paid for. Increasingly, they also face litigation costs from patient lawsuits for failing to protect their information. 

Providers also face another burden. In 2009, the FTC started to enforce the Red Flags Rule, which requires healthcare providers to develop programs that can help to detect and address situations that are “red flag” indicators of medical identity theft. The goal is to ensure vigilance and reduce the potential costs associated with medical identity theft.

However, implementing red flag processes, keeping them current, and ensuring compliance can be expensive and time consuming for healthcare providers. These processes must also be administered by front-line staff members, typically patient access employees that handle registration. 

This is an enormous responsibility for these employees when considering the potential consequences of medical identity theft. Compliance with red flag rules also places a substantial burden on registrars who are already buried with additional duties such as verifying insurance, collecting payment, and processing patients as efficiently as possible to reduce wait times and improve margins. 

rightpatient-benefits-medical-identity-theft-healthcare-red-flags-rule-rightpatient

Now, against the backdrop of these market realities, imagine if the risk of medical identity theft could be substantially mitigated, if not eliminated altogether. This is where RightPatient comes into play. 

RightPatient validates that patients are who they claim to be when scheduling appointments by comparing a patient’s selfie photo to the photo on her driver’s license or other ID cards. When patients show up for visits, RightPatient accurately identifies them during registration and other points along the care continuum. 

How RightPatient Benefits Medical Identity Theft and the Healthcare Red Flags Rule
How RightPatient Benefits Medical Identity Theft and the Healthcare Red Flags Rule

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

RightPatient creates a closed-loop platform to prevent medical identity theft and other errors that can impact patient safety, revenue cycle, and data quality. This saves a lot of time, money, and hassle for patients and healthcare providers.

prevent-medical-identity-theft

How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?

There are many things we need to be concerned about to avoid any identity theft and lose a significant amount of money. Social Security Numbers, bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, and even driver’s license need to be monitored continuously to make sure these are safe and sound. Another kind of theft has been increasing rapidly in numbers- medical identity theft. However, what are the problems associated with medical identity theft, and what can hospitals do to ensure that their patient data is safe and secure from such events? Let’s explore.

prevent-medical-identity-theft

What is medical identity theft?

As a refresher, medical identity theft occurs whenever an unauthorized person takes the credentials of a patient without the latter’s knowledge and uses it for personal gain. It can be used to obtain healthcare services such as prescription drugs, treatment, as well as medical equipment. Also, as we can see in the recent news, criminals are actively targeting medical data of patients, which has contributed to the meteoric rise of medical identity theft. These cause the patients to receive medical bills with shocking numbers- tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of services can be used or stolen by the criminals. One hundred seventy-one million patient records were exposed online, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. On the other hand, the reputed Ponemon Institute estimates that patients pay around $13,500 either for the fixes or for the services used by the culprits.

How does it affect patients and hospitals?

Other than the previously mentioned financial impacts medical identity theft has on patients, it affects them in different ways as well. According to the Ponemon Institute, 3% of the patients were fired, 19% lost potential jobs. In contrast, a considerable number of patients faced embarrassment due to the exposure of sensitive healthcare data- all of which happened due to medical identity theft. It can also cause the medical data of the culprits to be embedded into the patient record. For instance, when a victim goes to their providers for healthcare services, the patient might be given treatment based on the culprit’s preferences, interfering with the preferences of the actual patient.

How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?
How Do Progressive Hospitals Prevent Medical Identity Theft?

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

For hospitals, medical identity theft is equally damaging, if not worse. Half of the patients will switch their healthcare providers if their medical identities are stolen, according to the Ponemon Institute. Such an event would also impact their reputation, cause losses in millions due to denied claims, and so on. All in all, medical identity theft is a problem for everyone involved and can be very costly to fix.

How do hospitals prevent medical identity theft?

Many safeguards can prevent medical identity theft, but none are as effective as RightPatient. It is a biometric patient identification platform that ensures that the medical records are locked with the biometric data of the patients. The platform takes the biometric data such as fingerprints or irises of the patients and attaches them with the medical records. Without biometric verification, the records cannot be accessed by unauthorized parties, ensuring no medical identity theft takes place. RightPatient also ensures patient safety- the platform provides accurate medical records within seconds of scanning the patients’ biometric data. It reduces denied claims, improves revenue cycle, and saves hospitals and patients from unnecessary costs. Several pioneering healthcare providers like Terrebonne General Medical Center and Novant Health are using RightPatient. They are reducing denied claims, preventing medical identity theft, improving revenue cycle, and enhancing patient safety.

medical-identity-theft-prevention

Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust

What is one of the crucial things a company needs to ensure so that it can thrive? Is it the employees, revenue, or size? While many may answer something along the lines of the previously mentioned characteristics, one of the most critical assets a company can have is the trust of its customers. The healthcare system is no different- various health systems and hospitals are successful today only because of their patients’ trust in their services. Since it is healthcare, patients put their lives in the hands of the hospitals- trust plays a huge role here. That trust can be enhanced with medical identity theft prevention.

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According to Morning Consult, in terms of trust from consumers, healthcare lies in the middle, while insurance, finance, and real state are underneath it, whereas airlines and technology are above it.

Morning Consult conducted a study which had several respondents about their perception regarding various US brands as well as firms. From these people, a meager 16% responded that they trust health systems a lot, whereas 36% said that they believe these organizations somewhat.

Also, while ranking the most trustworthy companies, people, ideas, among other things, the respondents ranked their physicians even above notable choices such as Google, police, and leaders.

Thankfully, the report went deeper and gave areas of improvement for hospitals and health systems to build up trust among patients. When the sample of the study was asked what the most crucial factor which helps build trust towards an organization is, three-fourth of the respondents said that protecting their sensitive data was extremely important for trust-building.

All of these are straight from the customers themselves, and these are even more applicable to the US healthcare system. The health systems and hospitals need to ensure that the sensitive patient data they keep are safeguarded, especially now. Breaches seem to be very common nowadays, which leads to exposure to the patients’ confidential medical data as well as documents like medical images, medication, and so on. It costs both patients and healthcare providers alike- patients become victims of medical identity theft, whereas healthcare providers’ reputations are dented. People question the security surrounding the medical records since HIPAA requires strict safeguarding of such sensitive information.

Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust
Medical Identity Theft Prevention Enhances Patient Trust

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

These lead to losses for both patients and health systems- patients may sue the hospitals, the culprits may use the identities to avail services illegally, costing the patients a significant amount of money for services that they never used. Medical identity theft may also occur if an individual steals a patient’s medical credentials and uses it for his/her gain. In such cases, the preferences of the culprit may get mixed up with that of the patients. For instance, the patient might be allergic to certain medications, and may still receive that after the culprit uses his/her ID.

Dynamic healthcare providers such as Novant Health, Terrebonne General Medical Center, and University Health Care System are preventing such issues by using RightPatient. It is a biometric patient identification platform that locks the medical records after attaching those with the biometric data of the patients. Once a patient enrolls with the biometric data, for instance, irises or fingerprints, the records can be accessed using only the same data, creating medical identity theft prevention. The hospital can also identify the accurate patient record within seconds after the patient scans his/her biometric data for verification. RightPatient not only aids in medical identity theft prevention, but also eliminates patient matching errors, ensuring accurate patient identification, enhancing patient safety, and improving the revenue cycle as well. It saves lives as well as millions for both patients and health systems, enhancing patient trust.

patient matching challenges

Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges

If you are a follower of this blog, then you will know how huge a problem patient matching challenges actually are for the whole healthcare industry. As the health systems are brainstorming workarounds to make sure patient matching is increased, they should also keep in mind some other factors. According to a report from Pew Charitable Trusts, if the industry wants to ensure that patient matching errors are eradicated or at least substantially reduced, they should focus on developing robust data standards and patient engagement alongside the search for an effective patient identification system.

patient matching challenges

But why should it matter? According to the researchers, they have found positive correlations between patient matching errors and adverse effects. To put it simply, if a health system cannot match a patient correctly to his/her existing medical record, then problems like rising costs, medication errors, and adverse patient experiences will take place. Thus, patient matching is not an issue which can be underestimated. Concerns such as data integrity failures, lack of clean records, and patient mix-ups can all lead to patient identification errors and disrupt the patient experience as well as threaten patient safety. For example, if patient A has heart disease and patient B has kidney complications, and their records somehow got mixed up, then both of them will receive improper care, which could be fatal. Such mix-ups usually occur because of common names, demographics, addresses, as well as the format of the data stored within the EHRs of the patients. Formatting refers to how a health system saves the data and how many data fields it uses. For example, one health system may keep email addresses, whereas another one may not.

Another example can be a health system saving the full name of a patient in a single data field, whereas another may use three fields to save first, middle, and last names of the patients. Due to such errors, interoperability is generated as well. Other issues which cause patient matching errors can be incomplete or blank data. 

The research said that if common elements used by all the health systems were to be standardized, that is, the data is entered using a standard guideline rather than each health system doing so independently, these patient matching errors would decrease by a considerable amount. However, this may not reduce patient mix-ups between individuals with common characteristics like names and addresses, as these are still bound to happen. 

Another suggestion the research made was that active patient participation is needed to ensure that they are correctly identified and matched with their appropriate record. However, patients can sometimes absentmindedly or inadvertently choose a wrong record, while in other cases, the hospital staff may do it on their behalf and create a whole new record for the patient, known as a duplicate ID. 

Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges
Unique identifiers will lead to a reduction of patient matching challenges

#1 Biometric Patient ID Platform

Superior flexibility, power & ROI

The third and most effective suggestion the research made was to emphasize on using a unique patient identifier, something along the lines of RightPatient, that is, biometric patient identification systems. The study has shown that such a system helps in improving accurate patient identifications. The research further stated that biometric modalities are unique, cannot be counterfeited, and have excellent potential in the healthcare industry. They also found that hundreds of health systems have widely utilized some form of biometric patient identification system, and among them, one health system stated that over 90% of their patients accepted to use their biometrics to be identified since it is easy to use as well as accurate. Both the providers of healthcare as well as the receivers agreed that biometrics are helping to reduce patient matching challenges. 

RightPatient falls in line with the research’s suggestion. It is a biometric patient identification system which uses iris scanning to identify patients. Once a patient’s irises are registered into the system, the data is then integrated with the patient’s health record. All the patient needs to do is look at their camera- RightPatient then accurately matches him/her with the proper ID- it is that easy and convenient. Since it does not require any physical contact, there are no risks for contracting new diseases during the identification process. Even the health systems love RightPatient since, with its help, the physicians can focus more on the patient rather than spend time matching the patient with the correct record, enhancing the patient experience along the way. Over one hundred health systems are using it and have reported that it has reduced losses which they incurred due to patient matching challenges, saving millions of dollars in the process. 

At the Becker's Conference, learn how RightPatient prevents patient fraud

At the Becker’s Conference, learn how RightPatient prevents patient fraud

The Becker’s 2017 (and 3rd annual) Health IT & Revenue Cycle Conference is only a few days away! Needless to say, we’re excited, and it’s not just because George W. Bush and Sugar Ray Leonard will be there. The conference has a great lineup of speakers, presentations, and, ahem, vendors like RightPatient that will be providing a wealth of information on a variety of important topics.

The timing of this conference could not be better considering the recent Equifax data breach, which puts over 140 million Americans at risk of identity theft. This has serious implications for healthcare, but the good news is that patients and providers can mitigate their risk with RightPatient.

Since our inception, we have always recommended Photo Biometrics with RightPatient and have never deviated from that position. This didn’t come out of left field; we are, by far, the most experienced vendor in our market segment with 15 years of experience in biometric technology. We have worked with many biometric modalities, implemented our technology in projects around the world, built some massive biometric matching systems, and generally know this stuff inside and out. That’s why we always knew what was best for healthcare and had a vision of how Photo Biometrics would be used with our platform to transform the way that patients are identified.

 

RightPatient accurately identifies patients by simply capturing their photo. At provider locations, this is critical to prevent identification errors and medical record mix-ups that affect patient safety, revenue cycle, and data integrity. With 1,000 patients dying each day from preventable medical errors and hospitals writing off millions of dollars annually from denied claims and patient fraud, health systems should have an easy time justifying RightPatient.

But, for good measure, we now have the Equifax breach. Patient fraud was already a serious issue with 2-10% of patients showing up at the ED and providing false information (I’m looking at you, frequent flyers). We’ve heard countless stories from customers before they implemented RightPatient about frequent card sharing and outright fraud that was costing them millions in annual write-offs (RightPatient has since eliminated these issues). With the personal data of over 140 million Americans now compromised, how much easier will it be for someone to obtain care, access healthcare information, or gain a medical record release under a stolen identity?

Here’s the bigger question – why deal with any of these risks at all? For a small monthly fee, healthcare providers could implement RightPatient and solve these issues. When patients interact with their providers, RightPatient captures their picture and accurately identifies them. The service is contactless (ideal for hygiene/infection control), supports mobile devices (e.g. EMTs, unconscious patients, home health visits), and the patient photos that RightPatient simultaneously captures deliver unparalleled value in various ways.

If you have a chance, stop by our booth #1003 at the Becker’s Conference to check out why RightPatient is transforming patient ID in healthcare and to learn about our vision. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Patient Identification Errors

Prevent Patient Record Mix-Ups Before It’s Too Late

 

It’s no secret that patient identification is a challenge, but unfortunately, a frightening number of “wrong patient, right procedure” mix-ups still occur every day in hospitals and health systems around the country.

For example, an article published on bostonglobe.com highlighted a case at UMass Memorial Medical Center where a patient was mistakenly diagnosed with cancer and underwent unneeded medical procedures before hospital staff discovered a mix-up with the patient’s CT scan results. And, according to the article, this is far from an isolated case of mistaken patient identity at this hospital.

The good news is that there are tools that can help hospitals and health systems prevent such dangerous mistakes.

The RightPatient® Cloud, for example, is designed to prevent mix-ups and cases of mistaken identity by streamlining patient identification procedures and reducing the risk of human error—all while dramatically increasing the chances that that the right patient receives the right treatment from the right providers.

Most hospitals and health systems rely solely on patient identification procedures that require healthcare staff to use two pieces of patient information, such as full name and date of birth, to match patients to their medical records.

However, in today’s bustling healthcare atmosphere, it can be easy for healthcare staff to forget to perform proper patient identification procedures. And, many patients do not speak English, are unconscious or have similar names and birth dates, all of which increase the risk of medical mix-ups.

Healthcare regulators and public health officials are increasingly sending the message to hospitals and health systems that the time to make changes to patient identification procedures is now—before a potentially disastrous mistake occurs. 

By implementing the RightPatient system, hospitals can eliminate patient identification guesswork for healthcare staff. That’s because the RightPatient system captures a photo of each patient upon admission to the hospital.

After the patient is enrolled in the system, the patient’s medical record is locked and can only be opened using the patient’s unique biometric identifiers. The system can be installed on any smartphone or tablet, making it portable enough to meet the unique needs of staff and patients.

Although hospitals are spending millions of dollars on electronic health record systems, population health software and other advanced equipment to protect patients and streamline operations, most of these systems overlook a fundamental aspect of patient safety: Ensuring that healthcare staff are accessing the right records and providing the right care to the right patient.

Prevent Patient Record Mix-Ups Before It's Too Late

  • The bottom line is that healthcare consumers go to hospitals to get well and hard-working doctors and nurses do everything in their power to make that happen. When patients are not identified correctly, bad things happen.
  • The sad fact is that one simple medical record mix-up resulting from a patient mismatch is all that it takes to throw a patient and their family into distress, negate the hard work and dedication of the doctors and nurses who are trying to help, and damage the reputation of the hospital where the incident occurred.

With RightPatient, all that is required to eliminate these risks is a simple snap of a camera when a patient walks into the hospital. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask, does it?

protecting patient data in healthcare

How Doctors Can Transmit Patient Data Securely

protecting patient data in healthcare

Doctors must take precautions when sharing patient data. Learn more about how doctors should protect your PHI in this guest post from Heather Lomax. (Photo courtesy of pxhere)

The following guest post on protecting patient data was submitted by Heather Lomax.

Communication efforts in the last few years have greatly advanced between doctor and patient. Instead of having patients drive out for a visit or make drawn-out phone calls every time something needs to be discussed, some doctors’ offices have started to use online portals and email correspondence with patients. These options are extremely efficient, but they also place patients at a higher risk of medical identity theft. Therefore, special measurements need to be taken in safely transmitting patient data.

PHI Data and Email Encryption

First and foremost, patients need to make sure their devices are encrypted when they access medical data. Not operating on such a system places data at risk for theft with ease. Therefore, portals offering medical data need to be encrypted as well. Patients should be made aware that if their computers at home are not secure, then they place their data at risk there as well. Sending patients emails also requires another degree of encryption.

Different Types of Email

Several types of emails exist when it comes to safely transmitting data information with patients. For web-based email applications, doctors’ offices and patients alike need to use accounts with HTTPS encryption. This method is the only means by which web-based email is secure. The email is sent to a patient should also be encrypted using either PGP encryption methods or Symantec Digital IDs. In both of these aspects, each email comes with its encryption.

Use Cloud Services for Fax and Email

HIPAA regulations make specific claims about how data should be transmitted between office and patient. One of the methods to use for this communication relies on cloud services for both faxes and emails. These cloud services have their own firewalls and encryption procedures, and they make certain that data only goes to a specific location. More often than not, a specific receiver has to acknowledge that they accept a fax. A VPN access code can be used for this process.

Biometric Identification

As passwords become obsolete and even unsafe for healthcare data security, biometric identification is steadily rising in practice when it comes to accessing sensitive information. With passwords comes the potential of breaches in security, even with the most carefully crafted codes. However, with the use of fingerprint analysis, retina scans, and facial recognition software, it’s nearly impossible for identity fraud to take place since these characteristics cannot simply be imitated. And not only does it reduce the risk of billing fraud – it also prevents deadly medication errors, improves response rates to medical emergencies, and expedites health information exchange services (which will be discussed in the next section).

Use Three Different Forms of Health Info Exchange

When in doubt, doctors’ offices should use three, distinct methods of Health Information Exchange (HIE) with patients and other medical offices. The first type is directed change, where data can be sent and received securely through an electronic medium between providers and coordinated support care. The second option is a query-based exchange, which offers providers the opportunity to find and request information from patients and other providers when unplanned care takes place. Finally, doctors’ offices can use consumer mediated exchanges, a method which allows patients to have control over data and how it is used among different providers.

Conclusion

A great deal of options is available when it comes to transmitting electronic patient data. Rather than rely on flimsy means of protection, alternative options with tighter security like encrypted care, biometric identification, and HIE paths should be implemented instead. If your practice or hospital can introduce even one of these methods as part of their data transfer strategies, you’ll notice a great improvement in workplace efficiency as well as security for your patients.

Author bio:

Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Blaze Systems. She writes articles for a variety of medtech blogs, discussing solutions for optimizing healthcare data protection and clinical technology.

medical identity theft prevention

Medical Identity Theft: How Hospitals Can Reduce Risk

medical identity theft prevention

Medical identity theft can be just as damaging to hospitals as it is to patients. Learn more about what hospitals can do to protect themselves from falling victim to medical identity theft. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Hospitals are generally considered to be a place to seek refuge — a safe haven for both employees and patients alike. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Incidents of medical identity theft are becoming more and more common. Issues involving improper use and disposal of data, hacking, and theft result in not only adverse financial consequences but can also even have negative impacts on healthcare and personal well-being. Identity theft is something that every hospital needs to be aware of and prepared for — these steps can be helpful in preventing medical identity theft and ultimately reducing your hospital’s risk.

Reduce risk associated with personal patient information

The use and storage of patient’s social security numbers is the main source of vulnerability when it comes to identity theft. Data breaches and entry errors can mean that a patient’s information can fall into the wrong hands — compromising the safety of both the individual and the hospital itself. While much of the fraudulent use of patient information comes from stolen or leaked data, verbal or physical forms of sensitive patient information can also end up in the wrong hands. Hospital employees should take care to never discuss patient information in public areas, or with friends and families. In addition, physical forms including patient charts and records (even if they only contain the name of the patient) should be safely used and stored.

Ensure that secure methods are used in storage of patient health information

Every health organization should take necessary measures in order to ensure the safety and security of patient information. An investment in appropriate health IT may be costly up front, but it could end up providing endless savings — both financial, and otherwise — in the long run. Additionally, the use of a unique health safety identifier (UHSI) is a great measure to strengthen information and data security, with positive results extending all the way to the patient.

Avoid storing personal information of patients unless absolutely necessary

While many healthcare providers perceive that patient information — including social security numbers — must be stored for billing and insurance purposes, this simply isn’t the case. The storage of sensitive information (like social security numbers) isn’t always needed, and unnecessarily doing so may pose a risk for the patient and the hospital.

Dispose of patient information responsibly

Just as sensitive information should not be stored unless absolutely necessary, it is also imperative that patient information be disposed of in a responsible manner. Outdated or unused medical information, forms, and billing data should be shred or erased completely when no longer needed.

Assemble and utilize an advisory committee

In any healthcare setting, it is beneficial to have a diverse team of leaders that comes together to regularly review and assess security issues and vulnerabilities. By raising awareness and discussing perceived risks, hospital leaders can be well-informed when it comes to making decisions and implementing efforts to reduce risks and protect sensitive information.

how hospitals can prevent medical ID theft in healthcare

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Respond appropriately to issues and concerns

Not only can an advisory committee help prevent against identity theft, but the designated team of experts can be essential in addressing issues promptly and adequately. Utilization of an inventory system that tracks all processes and systems that contributed to the security breach can allow for the hospital to pinpoint the weaknesses and make necessary improvements. Once an issue is discovered, the advisory committee will be better prepared to — while looking at the data inventory — prioritize areas of concern and make adjustments that are needed.

Educate the patients themselves

As many hospitals strive to do the best they possibly can when it comes to securing patient information, actually sharing statistics and suggestions with the patients themselves can further improve the security of that information. Patients should be encouraged to keep their cards and information in a safe place and should be told to take caution when sharing sensitive details. Patient participation is crucial when it comes to combating identity theft and security tips and suggestions can be posted as signs throughout the hospital — or given to the patients in a brochure.

Medical identity theft is increasingly becoming a great threat to the safety of patients and health care providers. While there are many ways that patient information can end up in the wrong hands, there are fortunately many ways that both hospitals and patients can prevent this from happening. By working together and considering these tips, hospital staff members can ensure that the information of their patients can remain as secure as possible.

medical identity theft in healthcareAuthor bio: 

Joanna Sommer is the Senior Editor for InformedMag and is passionate about security and tech. She has been working in the home safety and security field for 5 years. Joanna loves to travel and enjoys going to hot yoga and Barre classes. She is dedicated to creating articles that both educate and help people make an informed purchasing decision.