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Patient Data Protection Is One of the Topmost Priorities in a Post-Pandemic World

COVID-19 has changed the fabric of reality for the entire world. While it has spread like wildfire and ravaged the entire world for more than a year, its effects are waning in the U.S. thanks to millions being vaccinated. However, the notorious virus has impacted virtually everything, and arguably, it affected healthcare the most. Not only did it make hospitals overflow with patients, but it also led to new challenges for hospitals – keeping hospitals clean, reducing hospital-acquired infections, and preventing compromised patient information. While we’ve focused on infection control in hospitals a number of times, let’s take a look at how COVID-19 impacted patient data, why hackers are after it, and how patient data protection can be ensured.

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Patient data protection took a backseat during the pandemic 

The U.S. healthcare system has always had several issues that restricted it from reaching its full potential – one of which is inadequate patient data protection. COVID-19, unfortunately, made it worse and introduced brand new challenges for hospitals and health systems – let’s see how. 

COVID-19 forced entire sectors of the population to work from their homes and stop commuting. As a result, organizations had to adopt remote working policies in order to survive. While frontline healthcare workers didn’t have the luxury to work from their homes, many healthcare workers were able to work remotely. Many of these employees handled patient information, and as they worked from home, they used various devices to access, transmit, receive, and work on sensitive patient information.

The problem here is that prior to the pandemic, such patient information was only accessible using devices, networks, and tools authorized by the organization – ensuring an adequate level of patient data protection. However, to ensure hospitals and clinics could continue operating, many rules were relaxed by organizations – some of which are these stringent device policies.

As a result, patient data security was substantially compromised by sizable healthcare providers. Even without the relaxed rules, it would have been a nightmare to track who accessed the information using their personal devices – there are just too many complications involved.

How secure is patient data currently? 

However, several hospitals have opened their doors to patients, for in-person visits, and more. But even in those hospitals, many healthcare workers are still working remotely, meaning that patient data protection is still at considerable risk due to unsecured networks, personal devices, etc. Moreover, healthcare providers have had their hands full with COVID-19, not to mention that numbers of data breaches have increased significantly – you can just google it and see how many patients are at risk.

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But why are hackers so determined to cause breaches to steal patient information? 

Patient data is heavily targeted by hackers

Well, healthcare providers have many restrictions – one of which is very meager budgets to upgrade their cybersecurity measures. As a result, they are quite vulnerable to breaches. Other than being a relatively easy target, stealing patent information is extremely profitable for hackers – they can sell each record for up to $1000 in the black market! The buyers impersonate the patients and since there’s no effective patient identity verification system present for all healthcare providers, many of these fraudsters get away with it. Many hackers are even holding the data and demanding a ransom to not leak or sell it online.

Healthcare providers are having quite a tough time. Before the pandemic, they had a plethora of issues, during the pandemic, pandemonium reigned. And after the pandemic, rising data breaches are among the existing issues. 

However, if healthcare providers focus on accurate patient identification, they can solve several problems – let’s see how.

Protect patient information with accurate patient identification

Accurately identifying patients solves a number of issues. For starters, patient misidentification itself is a huge but overlooked issue – caregivers rally each year for a patient identifier. Accurate patient identification prevents duplicate medical records right from the start, prevents claim denials, ensures that the right patient is receiving the treatment, enhances healthcare outcomes, and improves patient safety too. All of these lead to improved goodwill, lower patient safety incidents, and better bottom lines. RightPatient is the leading touchless biometric patient identification system that checks all the boxes above and has even more benefits , but how does it protect patient data? 

Well, RightPatient uses a database of patients’ faces to validate their identities. When fraudsters attempt to impersonate the patients, even if the data is breached, RightPatient detects the difference between the live photo and the one saved during registration. It easily red-flags the fraudsters, prevents medical identity theft in real-time, and protects patient data in the process. 

RightPatient has been proudly protecting millions of patient records in several healthcare facilities for years – are you protecting your patients’ information and ensuring their safety?

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Protecting Patient Data Is Crucial – 2.7 Million Patients Were Affected this May

Even before the pandemic, protecting patient data has been a big headache for most healthcare providers. This is mostly because cybersecurity measures employed by most hospitals are not state of the art, which means hackers constantly attempt to break in and steal patient data, many cases ended up in lawsuits, and cost hospitals a lot of money as well as cause patient safety issues down the line. However, during the pandemic, there have been cases of data breaches, and just last month (May), around 2.7 million people were affected by them collectively. Let’s take a look at how some of these happened, how most of these cases lead to medical identity theft, and how the latter can be stopped in real-time with a positive patient identification platform.

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Some very recent data breach cases that show protecting patient data is crucial

While ransomware has been a major component of data breaches in recent times, phishing and other tactics are also used and are still some of the primary tools employed by hackers during breaches. Let’s take a look at some of the recent cases that have been filed in May – you can view the full list here.

HPSJ’s email breach affected over 420,000 medical records

Health Plan of San Joaquin suffered a breach that occurred because unauthorized personnel had gained access to the provider’s email system. This occurred back in 2020 and, after inspection, it was discovered that this affected a number of official emails. While password reset was mandated on the accounts, it might have been too late, and it was found that this happened between the end of September and the middle of October last year. Moreover, after a thorough review, it was detected that over 420,000 patients’ information was compromised, and it included names, addresses, SSNs, and more. While it has been said that there has been no misuse of the information yet, HPSJ itself is being cautious since it knows that the breached information might be used in the future for medical identity theft. 

Arizona Asthma and Allergy Institute suffered a breach that compromised 50,000 patients

This one is a bit vague since there is no concrete information as to how it happened. However, the Arizona-based institution has stated that PHI (protected health information) of up to 50,000 individuals was “temporarily exposed online” under the name of a different organization back in September 2020. 

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It took till March 8 2021 to uncover that sensitive information was compromised including – last names, healthcare provider names, health insurance information, and patient identification numbers.

Just like the last case, there is no hard evidence that the compromised information has been misused – yet. However, the institute has notified affected patients to monitor their statements for fraudulent activities arising from medical identity theft. 

These were just two examples – around 35 hospitals and healthcare organizations such as Arizona Asthma and Allergy Institute, CareSouth Carolina, New England Dermatology, and more, were hit by similar breaches, affecting around 2.7 million individuals! This clearly shows how many people data breaches can affect and how they are becoming increasingly common and inevitable. But why are hackers focused on data breaches and why do they target healthcare? 

Data breaches – why target healthcare and what happens next

Well, hackers typically steal information in order to sell it in the black market, and in the U.S. the most profitable information is medical records. You see, stolen patient information can be sold for up to $1000. Compared to selling stolen credit card information, that’s a lot, which is why more hackers focus on healthcare. Moreover, healthcare providers have a lot of constraints which prevent them from utilizing the best cybersecurity practices, leading to data breaches. 

After the breach, when the hackers try to sell off the information on the black market, there are many individuals who are willing to buy it. Since buying the information for $1000 is cheaper than paying for their own healthcare, many fraudsters find this feasible. Afterward, they pose as the patients when they go to the hospitals. Unfortunately, as these fraudsters are armed with the information and since there’s no accurate patient identifier used by the caregivers, most of these bad actors get access and avail healthcare services fraudulently. 

Protecting patient data is possible even after a breach 

While most healthcare providers focus on protecting patient data before data breaches, others utilize innovative solutions to protect it after breaches too. Most of the fraudsters can be red-flagged and medical identity theft can be prevented if a proper patient identification platform is used, and that’s exactly what RightPatient does. 

Whenever fraudsters come in, they need to verify their identity, and RightPatient validates that by comparing the live photo with the saved one. When it detects that the fraudster’s face does not match with the saved one, it red-flags them, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

RightPatient prevents medical identity theft, reduces denied claims, ensures accurate patient identification, enhances patient safety, and more – would your facility benefit from this solution to protect patient information and prevent millions in losses?

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The Advantages of Telehealth and Why Hospitals Must be Cautious With It

Telehealth has been around for a while now, even if it only came to prominence during the last year. A paper from the University of California, Davis suggests that telehealth started in the early 1960s. Authoritative websites run by major healthcare providers have been around for at least 20 years. The last year or so has seen remote solutions come into their own, with regular consultations held by video call, support groups for all kinds of ailments moving to online platforms, and routine telephone screening used to allocate patients to the appropriate staff member – exposing virtually everyone to the advantages of telehealth.

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Given the pandemic, people were told to shelter in place. The healthcare system had no spare capacity to deal with seeing patients face to face. Patients were told not to attend the hospital or their regular clinic. Elective surgeries were canceled and routine appointments became virtual, conducted first by telephone and then by video call. The stuff of science fiction suddenly hit the mainstream – slowly demonstrating the advantages of telehealth.

Medical staff members are dealing with ever more complicated cases, among other things. Anything which can simplify and streamline this necessary engagement has to be tried, at least. The pandemic allowed a trial that otherwise might have been seen as driving patients away.

Remote healthcare has been growing in the last few decades. From emails requesting medical records or consultant second opinions, to routine online forms to fill out for regular repeat prescriptions or book appointments, the ability to integrate technology in healthcare is clear. Many primary healthcare practitioners no longer accept requests for repeat prescriptions by telephone but instead require patients to fill in their details online. Imaging reports can be filed online and shared electronically with a patient’s care team, while telephone or video consultations can save a patient having to visit the clinic unless a physical exam is necessary. This may allow the patient to fit the call into a scheduled break at work or arrange for others to take care of dependents for a short time.

The advantages of telehealth everyone loves

Telehealth does not necessarily even need anything more than a cellphone connection. A video connection may be preferable in some cases, but most screening and initial consultations can be carried out over the phone. No costly and time-consuming travel for the patient, no risk of delays for the practitioner. In these times of social distancing, it is best to minimize in-person contact, and telehealth is ideal for this. Patients who have been advised to shelter in place can still receive advice, treatment, prescriptions, and counseling with no risk to themselves or their specialist.

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Telehealth also speeds up the sharing of information between healthcare teams. A report and images can be shared by email over a secure link far quicker than a physical package can be delivered. Sharing patient information online can expedite care, which in turn can improve patient outcomes, quality, and safety in healthcare.

Telehealth needs to be used with caution

While there are numerous advantages of telehealth, it still needs to be used with caution. Technology can be used to help healthcare, as long as it is used securely and correctly. No one wants a patient safety incident resulting from misdirected confidential information or an incorrect bill, after all. Telehealth is more than simply a way to help hospitals improve their finances. Facilities need to ensure they can demonstrate to patients and staff that telehealth is secure as well as slick. It can allow patients to access healthcare when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to, as it will put them in touch with a regular member of their team who is familiar with their case. This means a higher quality of care than if the patient was simply searching online for treatment options.

One option which is not mentioned so often is that telehealth visits can be billed faster. Good for the provider, not so great for the patient, who may also have to attend an in-person appointment for a physical examination after screening. Both the initial virtual consultation and the appointment on site are likely to be chargeable, even though initial screening has often previously been free. Some providers may decide to offer a package of mixed virtual and face-to-face appointments, but should always make this clear to the patient.

Telehealth is not for everyone

Telehealth is convenient for those who are busy and anyone who can get to grips with new software quickly. For patients who are not technologically aware, anyone who lives off the beaten track, in rural locations, or off-grid altogether, it is likely to be more of a challenge to access. Virtual consultations have their place, but in-person healthcare must remain for those who cannot or choose not to access it online.

Some patients will, after all, have reservations about virtual appointments due to concerns about data and personal security. A biometric touchless patient identification platform like RightPatient may help calm their worries. Because it is biometric rather than in-person or touchscreen activated, it can prevent medical identity theft during both telehealth or in-person visits.

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How to Improve Healthcare Outcomes and Reduce Readmission Rates

Improving a patient’s outcome (for instance, their quality of life or life expectancy) is obviously the prime reason for treating them. Patients approach a medical professional with the hope of ‘being cured’ of whatever ails them, whether that’s by being prescribed medication to ease symptoms or having an operation or procedure to relieve pain or remove or transplant a body part to offer a better quality of life. When they are paying for their treatment, they have every right to expect that their life is better afterward. Hospitals that do not achieve the required levels of treatment outcome are routinely penalized, thus, they need to improve healthcare outcomes. These levels are measured by readmission rates. On average, over 2,500 hospitals are likely to be penalized because of their monthly readmission rates, even though the pandemic will have increased the chances of some patients having to be readmitted.

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Improve healthcare outcomes with an effective patient identification platform

However, there are some very simple ways in which hospitals can improve healthcare outcomes and reduce readmission rates.

Identify your patient. Continue to identify your patient.

Correct patient identification is key. Ensuring that staff members are treating the right patient for the right ailment is, perhaps, needless to say, the best way to improve healthcare outcomes. Getting identification wrong can lead to any number of issues, from unnecessary operations or incorrect scans to potentially dangerous prescription medication being offered.

The best way of ensuring correct patient identification is by using a touchless biometric patient identification platform such as RightPatient. It helps improve healthcare outcomes, ensures timely sharing of appropriate information with other professionals, and ultimately helps lower the chances of a patient safety incident.

The data may be on the screen, and may well be correct. But front desk staff, nurses, medics, and others are only going to know this for sure if they use such a solution. The available data is also likely to show previous admissions, incidents that the patient may have been involved in, allergies, vital statistics, next of kin, and areas of concern for the patient’s health.

Many hospitals undertake patient surveys to help them improve patient care, and this option can be offered as a patient reaches discharge date, if appropriate.

Goals, KPIs, outcomes, HSMRs – whatever you call them, they help improve healthcare outcomes.

Improving the patient’s experience of their stay in the hospital will also improve their view of how well they were treated. A positive outlook has been shown to raise recovery rates. Plus, helping patients recover makes staff feel better too. Making a good outcome a key goal of the organization and the staff will help both sides. Suggesting a reduction in incidents from the previous year is a friendly way to ask for an improvement in figures, whilst still recognizing that employees are human and can make mistakes.

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RightPatient identifies patient records accurately

No matter how good the records, unnecessary scans can be requested and patient information can be incorrectly recorded. It happens. If the patient’s identity can be verified accurately, then mistakes can be avoided.

Sharing is caring.

Sharing information with other caregivers can also improve healthcare outcomes and provide healthcare professionals with a rounded picture of the person they are treating. Not all patients will be happy with this option, but for primary care doctors, knowing where else their patients have already been treated is of great benefit when referring them to other specialties. Many people have to see a different physician for every ailment, and joined up care can make things much easier. When someone with a chronic condition ends up in the ER, a shared electronic health record allows everyone to know what medication the patient has already been prescribed and even whether certain common treatments have already been attempted.

CMS, therefore, requires healthcare providers to use CoP electronic notifications to let other named physicians know that they have a patient in their care. These notifications also alert others in the chain about patient discharge or transfer, which is important for ongoing care – using RightPatient can help with that. RightPatient also aims to prevent duplicate medical records, so acting against medical identity theft. All of this helps CMS compliance, which is good news for a facility’s finances, as fines for CMS breaches can be crippling after a while.

Contact us for more information on how RightPatient can help your facility and your patients stay safer from medical mix-ups and online impersonation by using our biometric patient identity management system.

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The Benefits of Telehealth and How to Ensure Patient Safety During Virtual Visits

Telehealth is nothing new – it has been around for quite some time now, especially in the U.S. Unfortunately, its potential was not fully realized before the pandemic because healthcare providers were too wary about using it whereas pundits were busy arguing and analyzing the drawbacks and benefits of telehealth. As a result, not many patients were exposed to virtual visits – leading to telehealth becoming nothing more than a rarely used add-on that was just collecting dust in the drawer of unused tools, figuratively speaking. However, as we all know, the pandemic changed everything, and telehealth became essential. The pandemic allowed telehealth to show its potential as it was quickly thrust into the limelight.

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RightPatient prevents medical identity theft during virtual sessions

Let’s take a look at how virtual sessions are transforming healthcare, the benefits of telehealth for everyone involved, and how patient safety can be ensured during these remote patient visits.

How telehealth became relevant again

Technology has slowly but steadily become an integral part of the U.S. healthcare system – AI, wearables, machine learning, and other technologies are being tested to detect whether they improve healthcare outcomes for the masses or not. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, it was ignored due to a number of factors, and the benefits of telehealth were also overlooked. One of the biggest advantages of telehealth is that it offers patient care beyond the walls of hospitals and health systems. This basically means that patients can get care right from the comfort of their homes or anywhere they want – enabling true, remote care. The future of telehealth looked quite promising. 

And then, a certain novel virus overwhelmed the entire world and burdened healthcare systems. 

Hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as they were coming in huge numbers – healthcare facilities had to allocate all their resources to serve patients. Moreover, due to the nature of the virus, other patients were not allowed into hospitals and they were diverted towards telehealth – the rest is history.

Telehealth’s usage increased dramatically as regular patients started using it and caregivers started adopting different telehealth platforms to accommodate their patients. While telehealth’s usage has been slowing down somewhat, it’s still here to stay. 

That being said, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of telehealth enjoyed by patients and healthcare providers.

Benefits of telehealth

It makes healthcare more convenient than ever

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RightPatient ensures patient safety during telehealth visits

Before telehealth became a force to be reckoned with, many patients had to travel long distances to see their physicians in person, something that is cumbersome, expensive, and inconvenient. However, thanks to telehealth, patients can see their physicians from their preferred locations. Patients don’t need to travel miles – all they need is an internet connection and a communication device. Patients can simply book an appointment, get the link to the virtual session, and consult with their physician(s) at the location and time that works best for them – making a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Moreover, telehealth helps globetrotting physicians provide healthcare services to their patients while they’re out of the country – ensuring that all of their patients are cared for.

It enables remote access to healthcare services

One of the biggest advantages of telehealth is that it takes healthcare out of the hospitals, that is, it enables patients to get healthcare services from the comfort and safety of their homes. Telehealth was extremely helpful when the pandemic hit in full force. It was one of the key instruments that helped reduce infections since it helped patients receive care without putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus by visiting hospitals.

However, with the pandemic, telehealth has also shown how useful it can be in providing remote care to patients that either cannot come to healthcare facilities or are not willing to. Since most patients are now familiar with telehealth, healthcare providers are also investing heavily into it – some are developing their own telehealth platforms whereas others are using established solutions to support their patients.

While telehealth can never fully replace inpatient visits that are required for lab tests, surgeries, etc., it can handle patients that have chronic diseases but are not able to visit hospitals. All in all, telehealth’s future looks bright, something that was uncertain before the pandemic.

It reaches more patients

Most patients usually prefer going to the closest healthcare provider for check-ups and getting treatment. However, many live in rural areas and do not have the means to travel to the city. Fortunately, telehealth breaks down that barrier as it does not impose any physical limitations – a patient can consult a physician that is thousands of miles away. This opens up new opportunities for the caregivers as they can serve a larger population. 

There’s more to telehealth

While there is no doubt that telehealth is here to stay, it’s still in its early years and can put patient safety at risk. For instance, during telehealth sessions, patients can face the same issues they do during inpatient visits, such as patient misidentification. Moreover, many experts are concerned about medical identity theft that might occur with telehealth visits. Fortunately, RightPatient can help prevent that – improving quality and safety in healthcare

RightPatient enhances patient safety

A leading touchless patient identification platform, RightPatient is being used by caregivers to protect patients from healthcare fraud, medical record mix-ups, and more. RightPatient can also be used across the care continuum, making it ideal for telehealth sessions. It helps patients validate their identities, preventing medical identity theft by red-flagging fraudsters.

RightPatient supports telehealth sessions as well as inpatient visits – contact us now to learn how we can help enhance patient safety for your healthcare facility.

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RightPatient Can Prevent Medical Mistakes, Patient Mix-ups, and More

While 2020 felt like a very long year for all the wrong reasons, it has been already two months into 2021, fortunately. However, COVID-19 is still having a significant effect, especially on the US healthcare system. One of the many issues that were present even during the COVID-19 waves was patient identification errors, and it demonstrated that healthcare providers need to upgrade their patient identification systems immediately. Patient record mix-ups, preventable medical mistakes, sending reports to the wrong patients, and not finding the patient records were just a few of the problems healthcare teams faced during the pandemic.

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However, there’s a more serious concern up ahead. As the vaccine starts to slowly but steadily reach the general public, potential vaccine mix-ups might occur as a result of patient misidentification. This will severely jeopardize vaccine rollouts and make them lose their efficacy.

While patient identification issues and their several consequences have been present for a long time, they can be prevented with an effective patient identification platform like RightPatient – let’s explore.

How RightPatient works to prevent medical mistakes

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that helps hospitals and health systems prevent patient identification errors and mix-ups. It attaches the patent’s photo and biometric data to the medical records during registration. During subsequent visits, patients are required only to look at the camera – the platform verifies their identities and provides the appropriate medical records.

One of the best parts is that RightPatient is contactless, making it feasible for a post-pandemic environment, as it prevents HAIs (hospital-acquired infections). Moreover, it can also be used at any touchpoint across the care continuum, making it ideal for telehealth sessions. 

That was a lot about how RightPatient works – let’s see the issues it prevents – and can prevent – for healthcare providers. 

The problems RightPatient addresses

RightPatient prevents duplicate medical records

Duplicate medical records have been creating mix-ups, preventable medical mistakes, and more, leading to detrimental patient outcomes, impacting patient safety, revenue cycle issues, and lower bottom lines. Since RightPatient can identify registered patients right from the start, it prevents the creation of additional duplicate medical records as well as medical errors – improving patient safety and healthcare outcomes.

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RightPatient eliminates preventable medical mistakes

One of the biggest issues patient identification errors create is medical errors. For instance, patient A will get medications that are actually required by patient B – a single mistake can be disastrous. Moreover, there have been cases where one patient received a transplant that was supposed to be received by an entirely different patient. However, since their names or demographic characteristics were similar, a mix-up occurred. Fortunately, RightPatient prevents such cases – ensuring quality and safety in healthcare facilities.

RightPatient prevents medical identity theft and protects patient data

One of the prominent reasons medical identity theft cases are successful is because there is no way to catch the fraudster. Conventional patient verification methods are not well-equipped to handle misidentifications, let alone detect fraudsters.

Fortunately, RightPatient can accurately identify patients using their photos; whenever the fraudster tries to pass themselves off as the patient (or victim), the platform red-flags them, preventing medical identity theft in real-time. This helps in a number of ways – patient information is protected from being corrupted, litigation costs are prevented by the healthcare provider and patient safety is ensured.

Can RightPatient prevent vaccine mix-ups?

While most of us among the general public wait for the vaccine rollouts, we have to remember that, at this point, to ensure maximum protection, we require two doses of the vaccine. However, imagine this – a hospital is housing vaccines from two different manufacturers. What if a patient receives the shot of Pfizer’s vaccine the first time and the second dose is from Moderna? 

Unfortunately, vaccine mix-ups are occurring as we speak, and it might significantly reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines, putting numerous lives at risk. Moreover, many of these cases might occur due to patient misidentification.

Fortunately, RightPatient can help hospitals and health systems to determine patients’ identities accurately, prevent record mix-ups, and ensure efficient vaccine administration without any hiccups, enhancing patient protection against the virus.

Responsible healthcare providers have been using RightPatient for years – preventing patient safety issues, avoidable medical mistakes, duplicate medical records, and medical identity theft in real-time. Contact us now to be a more responsible healthcare provider.

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Is Patient Information Protection Possible With Rising Cybersecurity Threats?

Healthcare is always in the spotlight – mostly because of the wrong reasons. Some of the many topics that often come up when discussing healthcare issues are data breaches, medical identity theft, the lack of interoperability, the lack of patient information protection measures, patient identification issues, among other things.

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However, due to the pandemic, telehealth has become a mainstream tool to provide patient care outside of healthcare facilities. While telehealth has been an extremely useful medium for caregivers and patients, there are valid concerns regarding its security. Moreover, even before that, cybersecurity threats have been growing considerably for the last few years.

That being said, let’s take a closer look at the recent state of healthcare data breaches, how the data were obtained from hospitals, and if patient information protection is possible.

The pandemic showed patient information protection measures were not enough

When the pandemic started, healthcare providers in the US had their hands full – not only did they have their usual problems to tackle, but also they had to deal with the surge of COVID-19 cases that overwhelmed their facilities. Quite naturally, healthcare frontline teams, facilities, and anyone else involved with them was pushed to their limits. Fortunately, there was a ray of hope when many hackers pledged that they won’t focus on hospitals since they were facing the biggest challenge in decades. However, not all the hackers shared the same sentiment – many chose to attack during this vulnerable period. 

For instance, by the end of 2020, many hospitals and health systems were victims of a wave of cybersecurity attacks that left them paralyzed. The attacks forced them out of their systems – disrupting healthcare operations until the hackers’ demands were met. Moreover, even prominent health systems took days to restore and operate normally.

Others were handicapped, and while not fully locked out of their systems, these caregivers were unable to provide accurate healthcare services too. For instance, they had read-only access to patient records, meaning that they couldn’t update the records themselves, which is usually done after seeing the patient (virtually or otherwise). As a result, a lot of scheduled visits, surgeries, and elective procedures had to be stalled or postponed. Cyberattacks ultimately harmed the bottom lines of affected hospitals. However, all of these attacks, delays, and threats led to the conclusion that patient information protection must be upgraded significantly to ensure quality and safety in healthcare.

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How patient information is typically protected

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is primarily focused on protecting patient information from internal and external threats or data breaches. It applies to any organizations (known as business associates) that deal with patient information or PHI (protected health information). HIPAA even has a Breach Notification Rule that provides guidelines for hospitals that suffer breaches. Unfortunately, there are many cases where HIPAA violations do occur, leading to hefty fines and loss of goodwill.

But how do hospitals typically ensure patient information protection? 

Well, different healthcare providers have different guidelines, budgets, constraints, and advantages. However, some of the more common ways hospitals and health systems protect patient information are:

  • Having a robust policy in place
  • Developing a culture that focuses on protecting patient information
  • Regularly providing training to staff members that access patient information
  • Performing internal audits
  • Having a security improvement plan in place 
  • Monitoring access and restricting unauthorized individuals
  • Pursuing HIPAA compliance
  • Encrypting patient information both in transit and at rest

Patient information protection needs an upgrade

While the aforementioned were some of the common security safeguards hospitals use to protect patient information, the pandemic showed the flaws of the existing cybersecurity measures. Also, another factor to consider is that not every healthcare provider has state-of-the-art cybersecurity measures in place – many are restricted by budgetary issues, bureaucracy, and current priorities their leaders have.

Telehealth raised security concerns

Moreover, telehealth has changed the rules. When the pandemic struck the US in full force, it forced the government to relax rules regarding virtual visits. While this was to make telehealth easier for patients and caregivers, it also opened doors for hackers. Cybersecurity experts were understandably worried about frauds – they already occur during inpatient visits, what about virtual ones? 

As a result, due to ever-increasing cyberattacks, healthcare data breaches seem inevitable, don’t they? However, their effects can be mitigated by preventing medical identity theft – that’s where RightPatient comes in. 

RightPatient can mitigate the effects of data breaches

A robust patient identification platform used by leading providers, RightPatient locks EHRs with patients’ photos and their biometric data upon enrollment. During subsequent visits, patients only need to look at the camera – the platform runs a search, and, upon a positive match, provides the accurate EHR within seconds. Fraudsters are red-flagged during the verification process, preventing medical identity theft in real-time and protecting patient information.

RightPatient is versatile enough to be used at any touchpoint across the care continuum – making it feasible for telehealth sessions. Responsible caregivers have been using the platform for years now – are you one of them? 

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Reducing Healthcare Fraud and Abuse During Telehealth Sessions

Healthcare fraud and abuse have been around for a significant amount of time – affecting healthcare providers, patients, and everyone else involved in the delivery of care. While most people think that it only affects patients financially, it has far more sinister consequences. For instance, medical identity theft, in many cases, causes the victims’ EHRs to become corrupt. Since the fraudster poses as the patient and might obtain healthcare services, their information gets recorded within the EHR, rendering it corrupt. Unfortunately, healthcare fraud is only increasing, demonstrating that it won’t be resolved soon. Moreover, experts are worried that healthcare fraud might bleed over to virtual visits (telehealth and telemedicine) as well since the majority of healthcare is using telehealth due to the pandemic. 

That being said, let’s take a closer look at the explosion of telehealth and its usage, why it might face healthcare fraud and abuse, and some practices that can help mitigate these cases. 

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Telehealth’s explosion in a nutshell

One interesting fact about telehealth is that it has been around for quite a few years. While it has been debated between healthcare experts and patients regarding its benefits and drawbacks, it never got the push required for it to evolve – until the pandemic. 

Once COVID-19 hit the US in full force, telehealth was promoted for non-COVID-19 patients who required medical attention. Moreover, rules surrounding telehealth were relaxed in order to help healthcare providers adopt it. As a result, telehealth’s usage skyrocketed, and while it does have some flaws, it proved that virtual visits are the way forward.

Telehealth raises concerns about healthcare fraud and abuse online

While telehealth grows, so does online healthcare spending, attracting the eyes of hackers and fraudsters – ultimately leading to healthcare fraud. The NHCAA (National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association) stated that a whopping $68 billion is lost due to healthcare fraud each year. 

But why are healthcare fraud and abuse related to telehealth?

Well, while most of us have gotten used to navigating life during the pandemic by now, when it started, it was an environment that created confusion, fear, and panic among the general public – patients included. Moreover, as previously mentioned, many regulations were relaxed in order to ease telehealth adoption. This created ways for fraudsters and criminals to take advantage of patients and caregivers via malware, bogus cures, charities, etc. For instance, there were cases where hackers and fraudsters gained access to telehealth sessions. 

As a result, not only should healthcare providers aim to secure telehealth platforms, but they must also adopt practices that help protect patient information and prevent medical identity theft during virtual visits as they become the new normal.

Reducing healthcare fraud and abuse during telehealth sessions

Use graphical elements to detect outliers

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Healthcare is vast, and any healthcare provider has to store lots of information or data regarding their patients, operations, etc. Using this information by itself might be counterintuitive as outliers would be very difficult to detect, especially regarding healthcare fraud schemes such as kickbacks. Data visualization, on the other hand, provides a visual representation and ensures that outliers and suspicious trends can be identified swiftly. However, its success depends on one aspect – the quality of data. 

Provide security training whenever necessary

Medical identity theft and data breaches are quite common in the healthcare space. As a result, hospitals and health systems need to train their employees regularly and effectively to prevent falling into the pitfalls of malware, phishing schemes, etc. Ensure that the training sessions highlight the most recent breaches and how they occurred, emphasizing the importance of preventing such cases within your organization. 

Aim for HIPAA compliance to reduce healthcare fraud

In order to prevent healthcare fraud and hackers from breaching data, the foundation within the hospital has to be strong first. In this case, the foundation is known as HIPAA compliance. 

Now, HIPAA compliance can be an administrative burden for most healthcare providers since there are several rules and regulations to follow. However, ensuring HIPAA compliance can lead to preventing medical identity theft as well as data breaches, as most of the rules are regarding the protection of medical information known as PHI (protected health information). Also, HIPAA talks about providing training to the necessary personnel so that they are updated about the most recent changes.

Fortunately, there are many solutions available that can streamline HIPAA compliance and reduce the administrative burden, but the one that stands out the most is HIPAA Ready. It is a robust HIPAA compliance management application that keeps HIPAA related information in a centralized location. It can also be used to conduct internal audits, identify, and address security gaps – strengthening security efforts. However, the best part is that it can be used right from a smartphone, putting HIPAA compliance in the palm of your hand.

Implement solutions that prevent medical identity theft

Some factors make data breaches inevitable. Firstly, many healthcare providers have a very meager cybersecurity budget, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. Secondly, hackers are always coming up with new tactics to breach and steal patient information. These two factors alone make data breaches virtually unstoppable.

While healthcare data breaches seem to be inevitable, medical identity theft can be prevented – with RightPatient. 

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that attaches patients’ photos and biometric data to their medical records upon registration. For subsequent visits, patients only need to look at the camera – the platform runs a search and provides accurate medical records in seconds. Whenever a fraudster tries to assume the patient’s identity, RightPatient red-flags them, preventing medical identity theft in real-time. 

Moreover, RightPatient is versatile enough to be used at any touchpoint across the care continuum – making it ideal for virtual visits such as telehealth sessions.

What-Makes-PPO-Insurance-So-Interesting

What Makes PPO Insurance So Interesting?

If you want a flexible health insurance plan that puts you in control of your coverage, you should consider PPO insurance. PPO insurance comes with more freedom of choice when choosing healthcare providers. These insurance plans are also relatively affordable, making them a good choice for those on a budget or looking for cheap health insurance.

What-Makes-PPO-Insurance-So-Interesting

Let’s take a closer look at PPO insurance and answer the question of what makes PPO insurance so interesting.

How Does PPO Insurance Work?

Let’s begin with the basics and look at how PPO Insurance, or Preferred Provider Organization insurance, works. These insurance plans are insurance products where you get the freedom of choice over primary and specialty care providers. Most policies cover you for all across the United States. Some PPO insurance policies even cover international travel.

As a PPO plan member, you’ll save money when you choose a service provider from within an insurance network. However, you can still get some coverage when choosing a provider outside of the network. Please note that choosing an out-of-network provider means you’ll have to pay more out-of-pocket.

Your insurance provider will give you a list of all of the practitioners and facilities within their network. You can choose from the service providers in your area to get all of the healthcare you need at a preferential price. As the healthcare you get from network providers is cheaper, we recommend choosing a doctor or facility within the network whenever possible to save the most money.

What Makes PPO Insurance Interesting?

PPO Plans are Adaptable

The most-touted benefit of signing up for PPO insurance is the adaptability of those programs. We are confident that you will be able to find a plan that suits your needs and preferences. These plans stand out against other healthcare plans that aren’t as flexible. PPO insurance allows you to search for treatment from any medical provider or physician, no matter your health and needs. You won’t have to obtain permission from a primary care provider to get coverage at a different medical facility. These plans work around you, rather than needing you to work around them.

In fact, one thing that makes these plans exciting is that you don’t even need to have a primary care doctor. PPO insurance puts the power in your hands and lets you take the right course of action for your needs. The adaptability of PPO plans means that you can schedule appointments and get treatments without having to ask for a referral from your primary care provider. The power is in your hands.

PPO Plans Offer Network Flexibility

To go back to the subject of network flexibility within PPO plans once again, you also have the option of staying within your network of providers or seeking outside help. The good news is that you won’t feel limited by the network of preferred providers. Insurance providers are continually arranging new deals and adding to their networks. Even if you stick to the network every step of the way, you’ll find you still have an excellent selection of care providers compared to other insurance plans. PPO insurance networks tend to cover a lot more ground than the average insurance plan.

It would help if you discussed how a company chooses contracted providers for their network. Ensure that the company performs background checks on providers, including checking for a history of malpractice claims. There are plenty of excellent PPO insurance providers out there that offer great care with greater flexibility, but you should always ask questions and be informed before making a choice.

PPO Plans Put You In Control

The most significant advantage of choosing a PPO insurance provider is that you are in charge of personal health care decisions. You have the power to choose which treatment options you want and who you want to receive it from. Being able to contact doctors and book appointments within your network without having to gain approval combined with the option to seek out-of-network care with partial coverage is what makes these plans so unique and interesting.

You aren’t bound to a primary care physician’s whims and decisions when you choose PPO insurance. You don’t have to spend the time, effort, and money involved with finding a doctor that would be better for you. Instead, you can see specialists when you need one, whenever you want.

Preferred Provider health insurance is interesting because it does away with all of the red tape and referrals involved with standard health insurance. It puts the power back in the patients’ hands and lets you choose the healthcare you want.

Whenever the topic of health insurance arises, medical identity theft is not far behind, unfortunately. When it occurs, a fraudster can gain access to the victim’s healthcare services, obtain medical devices, and drugs, all of which are billed against the victim. Patients not only lose money, but their EHRs are also affected, as the fraudsters’ information gets recorded within their EHRs.

Fortunately, many hospitals are preventing medical identity theft in real-time using innovative solutions – one of which is RightPatient – a touchless biometric patient identification platform. By locking the patient records with their photos and biometric data during registration, it red-flags fraudsters during the verification process where they need to look at the camera. Upon looking at the camera, RightPatient compares the saved photo with the live one, verifying authentic patients and red-flagging fraudsters, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

Final Words

You have a lot of choices when it comes to healthcare and health insurance. PPO insurance is an option that lets you seek the healthcare you need when you need it. You can save money by choosing an in-network healthcare provider, but you can also get partial coverage for out-of-network care. You’ll never have to foot the whole bill, and you’ll never be caught out without some partial coverage at the least.

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4 Practices Regarding Telemedicine That Enhance Patient Protection

COVID-19 is a phenomenon that will impact us for years to come, if not decades. It has shaken the entire world to its core and has changed everything we know. COVID-19 affected our daily lives, changed the way we interact with others, and made masks as well as sanitizers crucial necessities. Since many of the COVID-19 patients required urgent care, the US healthcare system had to come up with other ways for hospitals to serve non-COVID-19 patients without exposing them to the virus. Fortunately, tailor-made solutions already existed – telehealth and telemedicine being the biggest players. As a result, hospitals have been diverting a significant portion of their non-critical patients to virtual sessions – changing healthcare and the patient experience forever. That being said, let’s explore what the patients think about telehealth, what experts are saying about it, and how to ensure patient protection while improving quality and safety in healthcare facilities.

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How telemedicine came into play

Since the novel coronavirus hit the US, it has been overwhelming healthcare providers, their frontline teams, and virtually everyone who is involved in the caregiving process. Due to capacity restrictions and patient safety concerns, caregivers had to redirect at least one-third of their less critical patients to telemedicine. Naturally, its usage shot up significantly in the beginning, and while it has been declining for some time, it is expected to increase as COVID-19 cases are once again rising. The bottom line is that telemedicine and telehealth are here to stay, although some issues need to be addressed.

Let’s take a look at what over a million end users, i.e. patients, think of telemedicine, according to a recent survey by Press Ganey.

Patients’ perceptions regarding telemedicine

The first thing to highlight is that while most patients do appreciate the convenience telemedicine offers, it has a lot of wrinkles to iron out to make it seamless and more effective.

The good things

While many patients were being exposed to virtual visits for the first time, they did find it satisfactory. Many even said that they were likely to give good ratings to their caregivers after virtual visits, just as much as they would during inpatient ones. Telemedicine could successfully lead to a bond between the patient and the physician, and many patients felt that their physicians were more attentive during these virtual sessions. A patient even noted that during inpatient visits doctors would be looking at their computer screens anyway, which felt like they were distracted. During the virtual visits, however, the doctor had direct eye contact with her. 

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What needs improvement

While telemedicine itself is good, the process and ease of getting to virtual visits are not – these need significant improvements, especially with scheduling sessions and making audio or video connections.

However, there are a few more issues that require attention which, according to experts, might hamper patient protection – let’s dive in.

Experts are worried about patient protection

Healthcare data breaches have been increasing significantly, and are occurring even now. Moreover, the risk of a breach is higher during virtual sessions, ultimately endangering patient data. Healthcare providers need to strengthen their security measures and ensure patient protection during virtual visits. With restrictions eased regarding communication tools like Zoom, Skype, and similar utilities, as well as hackers turning their attention to virtual sessions, patient data security is at more risk than ever.

Practices that improve patient protection during virtual visits

Provide training and ensure awareness 

There is nothing more effective than raising awareness among your employees, and the best way to do this is by providing them with training. Clearly explain to them the consequences of data breaches, and also provide them with sessions where they can learn about the do’s and don’ts regarding emails, opening links, accessing patient data, etc.

Follow practices that safeguard patient information

Encrypting data might be the oldest trick in the book, but it can make it difficult for hackers to use the information.

A few practices must be followed to ensure patient protection during both virtual and inpatient visits:

  • Ensure that patient data is encrypted during rest and transmission.
  • Use reputed antivirus and firewall applications.
  • Use only verified and licensed software and keep them updated.
  • Restrict access to any unauthorized parties.

Use enterprise-level video conferencing platforms

While hospitals initially got the chance to use tools such as Zoom, Skype, Meet, etc., these have added cybersecurity risks. Telemedicine has grown significantly now, with many enterprise-grade platforms available that have enhanced security out of the box. While deploying them might be costly, they can be critical for ensuring patient protection during virtual sessions, eliminating the chance of hackers gaining access during these sessions.

Use solutions to mitigate risks and ensure patient protection

While there are many practices and strategies available that might strengthen cybersecurity efforts, hackers always come up with plans that ultimately could result in data breaches. Moreover, not all caregivers can upgrade their security measures due to several factors, especially budgetary constraints. As a result, having a response plan to mitigate the risks and consequences is crucial. Also, while it might seem like data breaches are unstoppable, medical identity theft is not – it can be prevented with RightPatient.

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that uses patients’ faces to identify their records. Moreover, it is versatile enough to be used at any touchpoint across the facility – making it perfect for virtual visits.

After scheduling appointments, patients need to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license; RightPatient automatically extracts the data and compares the photos for a positive match, verifying identities remotely. New patients are provided with unique biometric credentials. If a fraudster attempts to assume the identity of the patient, the platform will red-flag them, preventing medical identity theft in real-time. 

During inpatient visits, enrolled patients only need to look at the camera – the platform runs a search to identify the patient and provides the correct medical record within seconds.

By doing so, RightPatient can prevent medical identity theft even after data breaches, protecting patient information, eliminating litigation costs, and mitigating the consequences.