Personal Health Records May Be at Risk – Medical Identity Theft is a Real Threat

It is clear from qualitative studies that patients are willing to trade privacy concessions for medical record transparency- having full access to their medical records. Research headed by Jan Walker from Harvard Medical School reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine’s June issue. It demonstrated that patients feel completely at ease with computers playing a key role in their care and supplying medical information to them such as medication side effects and postoperative instructions. They want to be monitored with feedback to allow them more personal empowerment over their healthcare.

As President Obama pushes for healthcare reform and conversion to electronic medical records, computerized personal health records will naturally be the accepted standard. But what cost and danger will we be creating? As Congress plans to debate patient privacy issues, is this to become a computer hacker’s delight?

The World Privacy Forum, a non profit research group, found that there have been more than 20,000 reports of medical identity theft in the past 15 years. Medical services or medications are obtained using someone else’s identity information like insurance cards along with the name and social security number without the victim being aware of this. The felony causes false entries into existing medical records and may also include fictitious records for the victim in multiple healthcare sites.

Damage is twofold. The victim is plagued with a hefty financial burden for the medical services that were never received. Worse yet, the victim may be in physical jeopardy when the fictitious record entries cause the wrong treatment.

The World Privacy Forum Tips for Theft Prevention: 

* Get a copy of medical records to compare with future ones for tamper resistance.

* Review all Explanation of Benefits from the insurance provider. 

* Secure medical and prescription benefit cards in a safe place. 

* Healthcare employees need to be taught careful practices to prevent easy identity access. 

* Insurance providers need to be notified immediately of suspicious activity or false transactions with follow through to the special investigations unit.

Medical identity theft needs to be taken seriously. The false data in records can cause both harm and grief for many years.

Reprinted by permission of copywriter Barbara Hales. For more discussions on health care reform, subscribe to The Medical Strategist newsletter at:

About Barbara Hales:
Barbara Hales is a copywriter for the medical and health fields. With her knowledge of medicine, Barbara understands the issues and challenges in health reform that face you. For more information or help with your healthcare marketing, contact her at (516) 647-3002 or visit her website at where you can sign up for a free newsletter – The Medical Strategist.

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