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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.

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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.

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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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Four Ways to Improve Protection of Patient Information Within Hospitals

Healthcare in the US has been facing considerable challenges for the past few years. Data breaches, medical errors, patient safety issues, patient mix-ups, medical identity theft, the lack of interoperability, and detrimental patient outcomes are just some of the many problems that plague healthcare providers. However, one of the more crucial issues for healthcare providers is data breaches as they lead to a number of problems, especially compromising patient information. Unfortunately, these are becoming more common, even during the pandemic. Let’s take a look at why protection of patient information is crucial and four ways to improve its protection – leading to better quality and safety in healthcare facilities.

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Why the protection of patient information is crucial

The importance of patient information cannot be overstated – it is one of the most sensitive pieces of information for any given individual. Since it contains data such as names, medical history, medications, vitals, diagnoses, allergies, test results, demographics, etc., it should be protected at all times. Otherwise, external and internal data breaches can lead to the exposure of patient information to unauthorized individuals who might use it for nefarious purposes.

Medical identity theft is one of the most common outcomes of data breaches, and the former leads to patient data corruption. Patient data becomes unreliable, fragmented, and dangerous, causing detrimental healthcare outcomes down the line. This is exactly why HIPAA focuses on protecting sensitive information, known as PHI (protected health information).

After seeing why the protection of patient information is important, let’s take a look at how to improve it.

Four ways to improve the protection of patient information

Monitor access rights

Another way to enhance patient data protection is by monitoring access rights periodically, at the very least. This can be done by conducting internal audits to detect whether any unauthorized individuals have access to patient records. It’s crucial to remember that patient data protection requires preventing both internal and external breaches as well, and monitoring access rights prevents internal ones. After detecting the issues, simply revoking the access given to unauthorized users enhances protection.

Conduct risk assessments regularly

The best way to protect patient information is by taking the proactive approach – identifying issues within the system before the hackers do. Thus, healthcare providers need to conduct internal audits in order to detect existing security gaps, come up with effective solutions, and implement corrective actions.

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Utilize blockchain

Blockchain is something that has been trending in the past few years, and using it can significantly improve patient data protection. But how exactly can it help healthcare providers do so?

Well, hackers usually attack a single point. Since patient information is grouped in a single location, it’s easier to attack it and tamper with it however they please. Fortunately, blockchain enhances the protection of patient information. As the stored data is distributed over the network, hackers no longer can attack a single point – they need to access the data at all the blocks repeatedly. Moreover, any changes will be picked up by the officials and such changes require the approval of the majority of those in charge, making it virtually impossible for conventional hackers to hamper patient information.

Use solutions that focus on patient data protection

There are many solutions available for protecting patient data, but responsible caregivers need to think beyond data breaches as well. Data breaches have been far too common, and that’s because most healthcare providers have budgetary constraints leading to poor cybersecurity measures. While data breaches might be inevitable, providers can prevent medical identity theft in real-time with RightPatient.

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification solution that locks EHRs with patients’ photos. Moreover, it’s versatile enough to be used at any touchpoint across the hospital, making it ideal for remote sessions such as telehealth and telemedicine.

After scheduling an appointment, the patients receive an SMS or email. They need to provide a selfie along with a photo of their driver’s license, after which the platform compares the photos for a positive match, ensuring remote authentication.

Patients coming to hospitals only need to look at the camera. The platform compares the photos – red-flagging fraudsters and preventing medical identity theft in real-time. This ensures the protection of patient information as it prevents incorporating the fraudsters’ medical information within the EHR. In many cases, medical identity theft can be life-threatening for the patients if it remains undetected and unaddressed, something that RightPatient prevents.

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Protect Patient Information During Telehealth Visits by Addressing 7 Issues

The pandemic has been spreading like wildfire, and its effects on the US have been devastating – over 12 million people have been affected by it. Hospitals barely kept up with the pandemic’s effects when it first hit the country. Now that the winter has arrived, COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly. One of the previously overlooked aspects of healthcare, known as telehealth, has gained much attention during this period. As it ensures that non-critical patients could receive healthcare services without the risk of contracting the virus, officials were quick to redirect such patients to telehealth. As a result, telehealth usage surged and it finally got the attention it deserved. However, like everything else, it also has pros and cons, and healthcare providers must address the risks associated with telehealth to protect patient information, improve healthcare outcomes, and enhance patient safety – let’s explore.

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7 issues healthcare providers must consider regarding telehealth

Cybersecurity risks

Since telehealth requires the internet, hackers are always working on new and innovative ways to steal patient data and sell it to unethical individuals, who will later assume the identities of the victims to use the healthcare services fraudulently.

Phishing attacks

One of the most common tools used by hackers is phishing, and while simple, it is quite effective. Hackers pose as officials and lead the unassuming healthcare employees to click on the links they provide. As a result, hackers gain access to the targets’ accounts and can access or steal information. 

While these attacks happened prior to the pandemic, telehealth is at huge risk as well now. Phishing tactics that are currently used rely on social networking, and it might lead to users being victims down the line. Moreover, there are many instances where hackers posed as credible organizations like Microsoft.

Hackers

Hackers have been constantly trying to access patient information to steal or use it for themselves, and the sudden growth of telehealth makes it much easier for them. If telehealth sessions are done using unsecured networks, hackers can just add themselves to the session and steal patient information. They are now targeting providers using obsolete systems that have security issues and vulnerabilities, as that will be much easier to gain access to.

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Uncertainty regarding rapidly changing rules

As the situation surrounding COVID-19  is evolving, the rules are being constantly updated. Thus, it is quite crucial to ensure that providers are up to date regarding the changes surrounding telehealth usage in order to ensure telehealth services are delivered in a manner that can protect patient information.

Fraudulent activities

There’s a much broader scope for fraud in telehealth than inpatient visits – such as kickbacks, charging for services that weren’t actually provided, misrepresentation, and so on. Even CMS is closely monitoring in order to reduce such risks. Providers must ensure that they are not being charged falsely by having all the required documentation on hand at all times.

Patient misidentification

An issue that can be commonly seen during inpatient visits, patient identification errors may very well bleed over to virtual sessions as well. The premise is just the same – misidentification at the front-end due to issues such as duplicate medical records, overlays, or human errors leading to medical record mix-ups. All of this ultimately leads to delayed care, detrimental outcomes, and compromised patient safety. Thus, accurate and secure patient identification is crucial.

Medical identity theft

One can safely assume that medical identity theft is the end result of most of the concerns listed above. Let’s explore why it is so prevalent and how it takes place.

Well, the hackers aim to steal patient information from healthcare providers, and the ones who are high-risk are the ones that have vulnerabilities such as keeping patient data unencrypted or using unsecured means to transmit or receive it. After stealing the information, they sell it to hackers for steep prices – up to $1000!

This information is available on the black market, and fraudsters buy it to pose as the victims. Armed with the credentials of the victims, they can easily pass themselves off as the patients and have access to healthcare services, expensive medical equipment, prescription drugs, and more. That’s not all – the victims will be fraudulently billed for the services used by the impostors.

Experts are predicting that such cases will transpire with telehealth visits too, and with the issues listed above, it won’t be that hard. Fortunately, RightPatient can prevent medical identity theft and protect patient information.

RightPatient can protect patients during telehealth visits

RightPatient is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that uses patients’ faces to verify their identities. While data breaches might seem inevitable, RightPatient can mitigate its losses by preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

Patients are required to take a selfie and submit a photo of their driver’s license after registration. The platform automatically compares the photos for a match and verifies patients’ identities remotely, making it ideal for telehealth sessions as well. Fraudsters are red-flagged whenever they try to use the platform and pass themselves off as the patient. RightPatient helps protect patient information, enhance patient safety, and accurately identify patients across the care continuum.

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4 Strategies Hospitals Use to Prevent Medical Identity Theft Cases

The US healthcare system has been plagued with several issues over the years. The lack of price transparency, interoperability issues, sky-high prices, and the lack of a standardized patient identifier are just some of them. One of the more concerning, and increasingly common, issues is medical identity, affecting more and more healthcare providers and patients. While providers are already facing huge losses due to the pandemic, they need to mitigate them by reducing preventable costs. One viable solution can be to reduce medical identity theft cases, and doing so will bring several benefits.

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Let’s take a look at how medical identity theft happens, how common it is, and some strategies that can prevent it and mitigate losses.

How do medical identity theft cases happen?

Medical identity theft can occur in many ways, but it can usually be traced back to stolen patient information or records – a consequence of healthcare data breaches. There’s a reason why medical identity theft cases are so common: hackers are focusing more on healthcare data breaches because stealing and selling patient information is quite lucrative.

After a hospital suffers a data breach, the hacker(s) then tries to sell the stolen patient information on the black market. Unfortunately, there are many buyers available for many reasons, and they are also willing to pay high prices – up to $1000 per record!

After buying the stolen patient data, the fraudster assumes the identity of the patient. This can happen within healthcare facilities as well as during telehealth sessions (which are surging in popularity right now).

The majority of hospitals have no effective patient identifier and therefore they fail to red flag the individual, leading to medical identity theft. The scammer then illegally uses the victim’s credentials to obtain prescription drugs, medical equipment, and healthcare services, charging the victim for the services. Not only that, but since the fraudster uses the medical record, their information will be recorded within the EHR (Electronic Health Record) and can lead to patient safety issues down the line.

While that was a simple example, many complex medical identity theft cases are occurring almost daily.

Is medical identity theft common?

The numbers don’t lie –more patient records were breached in 2019 compared to the prior three years combined! Moreover, 9.7 million patient records were affected by data breaches this September. There’s no doubt that the majority of these patient records will be used for medical identity theft, as experts are also predicting a sharp increase in the near future.

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Hospitals must ensure that they are preventing medical identity theft cases to guarantee patient safety and reduce associated litigation costs. Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help prevent medical identity theft and all of its consequences.

4 strategies hospitals can use to prevent medical identity theft cases

Follow the rules and regulations

First and foremost, the healthcare facility must ensure that they are properly following the rules. For instance, HIPAA mandates that there should be some technical, administrative, and physical safeguards present to protect patient information, known as PHI (Protected Health Information).

While this might seem like a straightforward strategy, a lot of healthcare providers fail to ensure HIPAA compliance. This not only leads to data breaches and medical identity theft down the line, but also incurs HIPAA penalties. HIPAA itself is a multi-layered and complex law that requires continuous effort to ensure compliance.

Fortunately, healthcare organizations can use HIPAA Ready, a robust HIPAA compliance software, to reduce the administrative burden. It streamlines HIPAA compliance, ensures training management, keeps all the HIPAA-related information in a centralized location, and also helps conduct internal audits. 

By ensuring HIPAA compliance, healthcare organizations can detect security gaps and address the vulnerabilities, mitigating data breaches and, in turn, medical identity theft.

Devise a policy to enhance security

As previously mentioned, HIPAA has several requirements and requires that networks and devices are secure at all times. To do that, hospitals must come up with and follow a strict device policy so that sensitive patient information is not leaked inadvertently. While a BYOD (bring your own device) practice might be more flexible, it will inevitably lead to data breaches and leakage of sensitive information.

Thus, the following tips will help enhance security:

  • Only allow official devices for storing sensitive information
  • Only allow logging into secure networks
  • Encourage usage of VPN
  • Ensure data encryption at all times
  • Keep logs of access requests to track any suspicious activity

Train employees regularly

Staff members such as registrars and nurses are the ones who regularly access patient data. Training them will provide them with the knowledge to avoid suspicious emails, as that is the primary weapon of hackers. Moreover, providing regular training – especially if it includes information on recent data breaches – can be beneficial. As previously mentioned, HIPAA Ready can help with training management.

Ensure accurate patient identification

Even if a data breach occurs, medical identity theft can be prevented if healthcare providers can red flag the fraudster during identity verification. That is exactly what RightPatient does.

 

RightPatient is the leading touchless patient identification platform used by several caregivers. It verifies identities by using patients’ photos. After scheduling appointments, patients need to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license. The platform matches them and verifies their identity remotely, red-flagging fraudsters. This system is ideal for telehealth sessions.

During inpatient visits, the scammer is red-flagged when the platform identifies that their face does not match the saved photo attached to the medical record, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

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Healthcare Data Breach Cases Lead to Medical Identity Theft – How Are You Protecting Patients?

Anyone who knows about the US healthcare system also knows that it has always been riddled with issues, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Astronomical costs, the lack of price transparency, and the insurance system are not the only problems. Poor healthcare outcomes, preventable medical errors, medical identity theft, duplicate medical records, and lack of interoperability also plague healthcare facilities across all states. While we have covered many of these topics at one point or another, this time we will focus on healthcare data breach cases. Let’s take a closer look at recent healthcare data breaches, why providers are being targeted so frequently, how they generate medical identity theft, and how healthcare providers can protect patient data even after breaches.

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Healthcare data breaches are becoming increasingly common

When the pandemic hit the US healthcare system, many hackers had pledged that they won’t attack healthcare providers and steal patient information – something that was unprecedented. However, not all of the hackers shared the same mindset, and there have been many healthcare data breach cases over the past few months. As a result, healthcare providers are having to fight multiple battles at the same time. Let’s review two of the recent attacks.

UHS reportedly suffered a huge breach

Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services, a health system that consists of 26 hospitals, suffered a breach. On the 30th of September, they stated that some of the systems had been recovered. While there are no specifics as to how many patients were affected, the health system was forced to go offline on all of its locations to reduce the risks. However, it is working tirelessly to restore the affected systems.

Ashtabula County Medical Center

The Ohio-based medical center also suffered a cybersecurity attack on the 27th of September which forced it to cancel procedures.

What are healthcare providers saying regarding data breaches?

Many are stating that healthcare data breach cases are becoming quite common and they need better cybersecurity measures to reduce these unwanted events. While cybersecurity has always been a concern of CIOs and IT leaders, the budgets don’t allow them to realize their visions of having breach-free health systems. Moreover, they are expecting even more data breaches in the future, as they don’t see data breaches going away anytime soon. Sadly, the problems do not end here.

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Healthcare data breaches generate medical identity theft

Data breaches are huge nightmares for any healthcare provider. The worst part is that they’re inevitable, and even the biggest health systems can be vulnerable – hackers are constantly uncovering new strategies to attack and steal patient information. 

After stealing the patient information, fraudsters buy it from the black market and they assume the identities of the patients. Not many healthcare providers have effective patient identity management systems, so scammers can easily pass themselves off as the patients, since they have their credentials. If providers use effective patient identification platforms, they can prevent medical identity theft in real-time. Thus, while data breaches are inevitable and, without proper cybersecurity measures, unavoidable, medical identity theft can be prevented.

RightPatient mitigates the losses associated with data breaches

Using a robust photo-based engine, RightPatient ensures accurate patient identification using the feature fraudsters or hackers cannot steal or imitate: patients’ faces. 

The platform can also identify patients right from appointment scheduling – patients are asked for a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license after scheduling an appointment. After patients provide the photos, RightPatient matches the photos to verify the patient’s identity to see if they are who they say they are. If a fraudster is assuming the identity, RightPatient red-flags the anomaly, preventing medical identity theft in real-time. New patients are provided with biometric credentials, making it a seamless process.

If the patients are coming in person to the healthcare facilities, all they need to do is look at the camera. RightPatient matches the new photo with the saved one – if it’s a scammer, RightPatient red-flags the incident, preventing medical identity theft. It ensures a touchless and hygienic environment for everyone, something that is mandatory in a post-pandemic world.

RightPatient is enhancing patient safety, protecting patient data from being corrupted, and improving healthcare outcomes. Mitigate your losses, prevent medical identity theft, and enhance patient safety now with RightPatient.

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Medical Identity Theft Prevention Becomes Crucial as Telehealth Usage Rises

The novel coronavirus, infamously known as COVID-19, is a phenomenon that has changed our lives forever. Wearing masks, using sanitizers, and practicing social distancing has become a part of our daily lives, especially for those who need to leave their houses every day. It has disrupted business operations and even forced many into bankruptcy, causing businesses to shut down. One of the most affected industries is healthcare, and it is safe to say that the US healthcare system has been severely affected by the pandemic. Hospitals have shut down, and those that are open are facing unprecedented losses. However, telehealth has experienced a meteoric rise in both popularity and usage. While more patients and caregivers are adopting telehealth, healthcare providers need to ensure that such visits are not plagued with medical identity theft cases. Let’s take a look at the rapid rise of telehealth, how people are adapting to it, and how medical identity theft prevention can be ensured with RightPatient.

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Telehealth is becoming mainstream

Let’s take a look at a recent survey by Amwell. The research sheds light on the fact that patients and caregivers are far more open to using telehealth now compared to the pre-pandemic period. The numbers clearly illustrate this: in 2019, 8% of patients and 22% of caregivers had virtual sessions, whereas in 2020, the number is around 22% for patients and a whopping 80% for caregivers. This is predominantly because the pandemic forced hospitals to shift their focus to the COVID-19 patients, leaving others with the option to get treated via virtual sessions rather than inpatient visits.

Some of the key findings from the study regarding telehealth are:

More scheduled virtual visits compared to urgent care visits

According to the survey, patients leaned towards scheduled virtual visits compared to urgent care visits. 54% of patients had scheduled virtual visits with their physicians, whereas 21% of patients who had at least a virtual visit had an urgent care visit as well during 2020.

Virtual specialty care is growing rapidly

Unsurprisingly, telehealth is being used by more patients every day. 42% of patients had virtual visits with their regular specialists, and 13% had virtual visits with new specialists this year. Moreover, specialists such as cardiologists, surgeons, and others stated that they had seen more patients virtually compared to 2019. This led to specialists being more open to telehealth as well – it was the only way to treat some patients due to COVID-19.

More patients were opting for telehealth

2020 had three times the number of patients using telehealth compared to 2019. 59% of the patients who used telehealth stated that their first usage was during the pandemic, and an overwhelming 91% of the patients were “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the visits.

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Healthcare providers, on the other hand, said that they saw almost four times more patients this year compared to 2019, and 84% of providers were “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the platforms. 

Medical identity theft prevention must be ensured

While all of the above statistics show that telehealth has a promising future ahead, it also has to ensure patient safety. There are many risks associated with conventional inpatient visits such as medical identity theft, patient misidentification, medical errors, and so on. While not all of these issues will bleed over to telehealth, many experts are predicting that telehealth might witness medical identity theft cases. Thus, responsible caregivers should ensure medical identity theft prevention to secure safe, undisrupted healthcare visits – for both virtual and inpatient visits.

How data breaches, medical identity theft, and telehealth are related

Healthcare data breaches are becoming common because hackers can steal patient information and sell it for up to $1000. Data breaches are endless nightmares for healthcare providers – causing HIPAA compliance issues, loss of goodwill, unwanted publicity, and finally, medical identity theft. Fraudsters buy the information from the hackers to assume the identities of the patients and use the victims’ healthcare services illegally. Since many healthcare providers don’t have robust patient identity verification systems, they are unable to identify the scammers. These are the cases that occur within healthcare facilities. 

Telehealth has been largely ignored in the pre-pandemic world. People were debating about its pros and cons, and since it didn’t provide the same level of flexibility as conventional healthcare, its future was uncertain. However, the pandemic changed the public’s perception regarding telehealth. As the statistics above demonstrated telehealth’s acceptance, experts have predicted that hackers and fraudsters will focus on it as well. If they acquire the login credentials of patients, fraudsters can also impersonate the victims during telehealth sessions, committing medical identity theft virtually. Thus, medical identity theft prevention becomes crucial.

RightPatient ensures medical identity theft prevention

Thankfully, healthcare providers can prevent medical identity theft with RightPatient. It is a touchless biometric patient identification platform that uses the faces of the patients to prevent healthcare fraud and protect patient data. With a powerful photo-based engine, RightPatient ensures that the patients are who they say they are. After scheduling appointments, patients receive an SMS or email and they need to provide a personal photo and a photo of their driver’s license to verify their identity. The platform automatically matches the photos, ensuring remote identity verification.

RightPatient ensures accurate patient identification across the continuum of care, starting right from appointment scheduling. During hospital visits, all the patient needs to do is look at the camera – the platform matches the current photo with the one saved during registration, creating a touchless, easy, and hygienic experience. RightPatient is preventing duplicate medical records, reducing claim denials, preventing medical identity theft, and enhancing patient safety for leading healthcare providers. Be a responsible provider and protect patient data with RightPatient now.

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3 Patient Safety Measures Hospitals Must Take in a Post-Pandemic World

COVID-19 has changed reality for us – it has changed the way we lead our lives. Sanitizers, masks, and social distancing have become quite integral parts of our daily lives now. Wherever we go, social distancing practices are encouraged for a safer environment. However, it has shaken the healthcare systems of the world to their core, especially that of the U.S. With the highest number of cases in the world (as of now), hospitals are slowly opening their doors for regular patients. Keeping that in mind, hospitals must take patient safety measures while they are opening to ensure that patients receive care in a safe and hygienic environment. Let’s take a look at some common steps hospitals can take to prevent patient safety issues.

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Some insightful statistics

According to a survey by Sage Growth Partners, 24% of the respondents (healthcare professionals) believe that issues such as disparate EHRs and lack of actionable data at the point of care lead to patient safety issues.

Improving patient safety is also among the top three priorities of the respondents, besides delivering high-quality care and increasing efficiency and reducing costs – all of which can be done by ensuring accurate patient identification (more on that later). 

Let’s explore what kind of patient safety measures will help hospitals enhance patient care.

Patient safety measures that can help enhance patient care

Planning everything well in advance

While many might think that everything is slowly returning to normal, it’s quite the opposite. Working from home is still being utilized by most organizations, social distancing is still being practiced, and wearing masks and sanitizing regularly are still highly encouraged.

Since hospitals are opening slowly, they should plan every step carefully along with contingencies while keeping worst-case scenarios in mind. Hospitals need to plan the opening days and rather than opening the whole facility at once, they should open in phases. This will help reduce the risk of any mass outbreaks of COVID-19 – managing a mass outbreak at a single location will be much easier than managing outbreaks at all the facilities.

Also, hospitals should decide at what capacity will they operate and the duration for that testing phase. If all goes well, they can slowly increase the capacity of patients they will be serving. 

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Finally, the inventory required for all of the above needs to be planned to ensure that the necessary materials are available at all times. For instance, PPE has become quite critical, and these should be ordered well in advance before the stock runs out within the facilities. Thus, instead of reordering the materials when they’re at 30%, they should be reordered at, say, 45% – these are essential materials, after all.

Enforce safety measures for everyone

It goes without saying that every individual must practice a minimum level of social distancing to help themselves and others stay safe from the novel coronavirus. Sadly, not everyone follows that. Thus, the hospitals must enforce that everyone within the facility must follow the social distancing rules to a T. Not only is this one of the most common patient safety measures, but it also enhances safety for the physicians, nurses, and every other healthcare staff. 

Keep brightly colored posters in places where they will catch everyone’s attention. Place stickers on the floor with six feet between them to show where patients or caregivers must stand, especially in busy places like registration desks. Make sure that everyone is wearing masks and that sanitizers are available everywhere. Keeping the facilities hygienic is crucial to enhance patient safety.

Ensure accurate patient data

One of the most crucial factors that make or break patient safety is patient data, as the former is heavily reliant on the accuracy of patient data. Imagine this, if the patient is treated based on inaccurate patient data, they will face delayed or incorrect medications, leading to poor healthcare outcomes. One of the most common ways patient data gets corrupted is via duplicate records. 

If a patient has multiple records, there are high chances that the registrar will select the one with inconsistent or fragmented data, leading to adverse outcomes. Thus, ensuring that patient data integrity is maintained at all times is crucial for improving patient safety. Fortunately, RightPatient does all that – and more.

RightPatient is the leading patient identification platform used by healthcare providers like Terrebonne General Medical Center, Grady Health, and Catholic Health of Long Island. With a robust photo-based engine, it ensures that the patients are identified accurately at all times across the care continuum, helping patient data integrity by avoiding duplicate medical records. Moreover, it ensures that the patients are who they say they are and not impostors, preventing medical identity theft in real-time.

Finally, a platform like RightPatient is critical in a post-pandemic world because it is entirely touchless. Thus, it helps caregivers and patients operate in a hygienic environment by preventing infection control issues.

Use RightPatient now and enhance patient safety at your facilities, prevent medical identity theft, and prevent duplicate medical records – enhancing patient data integrity along the way.

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Upgrading the Patient Identification Process Can Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

Opioid abuse has been a constant problem for the U.S. healthcare system for years now. When opioid medications were introduced, it was said that they would help caregivers and patients by improving healthcare outcomes. However, many didn’t count on the fact that it might create problems such as opioid addictions, leading to medical identity theft, overdoses, and even deaths of the addicts as well as their newborns. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in opioid abuse cases. Let’s review some statistics associated with opioid abuse, where cases are happening now, why they usually happen, and how a proper patient identification process can help combat the opioid epidemic for healthcare providers.

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The opioid epidemic is just one of the many problems

We’ve stated this more times than we can count – the U.S. healthcare system just doesn’t seem to catch a break. It has always been plagued with a number of serious problems. Expensive healthcare, lack of price transparency, lack of proper patient identification process, medical identity theft cases, healthcare data breaches, duplicate medical records – these are just some of the many issues faced by patients and caregivers. However, the opioid crisis is another significant issue that needs to be addressed – even during the pandemic, it’s getting worse. Thus, healthcare providers are not only facing the issues above, but they’re also fighting a pandemic as well as an epidemic. However, before getting into the current situation, let’s take a look at some stats.

The numbers show how serious the opioid epidemic is

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 130+ people died every day due to opioid overdoses, 10.3 million Americans misused prescribed opioids in 2018, and 2 million patients misused prescribed opioids the first time they received them from their doctor. 

However, the numbers have jumped significantly this year compared to 2019 in approximately 21 of the largest U.S. counties, according to The Wall Street Journal. Counties in California, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Ohio saw an increase in deaths caused by opioid overdoses. Moreover, Los Angeles County suffered an increase in overdoses by 48% within the first 6 weeks of the novel coronavirus pandemic when compared to the same period from last year. But why are the opioid cases considered an epidemic? 

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The opioid crisis in a nutshell

In the late 90s, opioids were pushed by pharmaceutical companies – ensuring that they were either less addictive or nonaddictive compared to other drugs available at that time – morphine, for instance. They stated that even the less addictive ones had no dangerous side-effects. This instilled doctors and physicians with confidence and they started prescribing them to patients. It created an epidemic that the U.S. healthcare system has been battling for decades now – and the rates are only increasing. But how do addicted patients get their hands on these drugs from hospitals?

Lack of a proper patient identification process leads to more cases

Patient identification, as previously mentioned, has been problematic for years now. The addicted patients can simply go back to their caregivers and demand more of the dangerous drugs, stating that this is the first time they’re requesting them – abusing their prescriptions. Since the caregivers don’t have a proper way to verify such statements (as an effect of the lack of patient identification), they have no other choice.

Also, addicts might lie regarding their information and present themselves as a different patient in order to get access to the drugs. One way they can do that is by committing medical identity theft – they assume the identities of others to receive the drugs. Thus, hospitals can better battle the opioid crisis if they make the patients go through a proper patient identification process.

RightPatient can enhance your patient identification process

RightPatient has already been helping leading healthcare providers ensure positive patient identification for years now. With its photo-based search engine, RightPatient can prevent medical identity theft in real-time, ensure that patients are who they say they are, and track their last visits to the facilities to verify that they’re getting the prescribed medicine and nothing more.

RightPatient can also ensure accurate patient identification from appointment scheduling. After booking an appointment, the patient receives an SMS or email to verify their identity. A patient only needs to provide their selfie and a photo of their driver’s license. RightPatient matches the photos and remotely validates the patient’s identity. If it’s a new patient, the platform assigns biometric credentials for them, making it a seamless process.

RightPatient has several benefits – not only can it help curb the opioid abuse cases, but it can also prevent medical identity theft, avoid duplicate medical records, and help in improving patient safety and quality of care.