How doctors can prevent patient, provider ID thefts

Clearing a physician's name after identity theft can take years

American Medical News this week outlined strategies for avoiding medical identity theft, which now plagues providers and patients alike.

Two types of medical ID theft

According to American Medical News, there are two major types of medical identity theft:
  • When a physician's professional identifiers are stolen; and
  • When a patient's identity has been compromised.

Both types of identity theft can harm physicians.

When a physician's personal identifiers are stolen, it could take more than a year and thousands of dollars to clear the physician's name. According to a June Ponemon Institute survey, resolving cases of medical identity theft can cost about $22,346 per individual.

Meanwhile, patients who experience medical identity theft might lose trust in their doctors, and physicians could face HIPAA violations if they failed to sufficiently protect patient data. In addition, if two patients are using the same identifying information, medical errors could occur.

According to a Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of Nationwide Insurance, only 24% of surveyed individuals have checked their medical records for fraud.

Recommendations for health care providers
To protect against identity theft, American Medical News recommends that health care providers:

  • Review their Medicare remittance notices;
  • Look for inconsistencies in patients' health records;
  • Educate patients about the importance of reviewing insurance summaries;
  • Ask for two pieces of identification from patients; and
  • Ask patients about how they were referred to the medical practice (Dolan, American Medical News, 8/6).

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