The latest threat in the healthcare scenario that is seemingly on the rise is medical identity theft. It involves the use of an individual’s name and identity proof to obtain medical services/medicines and also to submit false claims. The stolen details include insurance information. A recent survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute revealed the shocking fact that around 1.8 million people would be subject to medical fraud in 2013 and it would cost them in the region of $ 12 billion. The survey was conducted among 788 adults most of whom or their close family members had experienced medical fraud. These participants stressed the importance of controlling their healthcare records directly. However, most of these people trusted their providers to be accurate and didn’t bother to study their medical records for accuracy. Moreover, many of these people didn’t know how to check the medical records.
30% of the respondents allowed a family member to use their identity credentials to receive medical treatment, healthcare products or medications. 53% of these people said they did it only once whereas 21% did not know how many times they had shared their identity information. 28% of the respondents claimed that their family members took their personal healthcare information without their consent.
The laxity in ensuring accuracy of the records must have been mainly because more than 1/3rd of the survey participants did not experience any financial loss following the identity theft. Diminished credit scores, lost time and reduced productivity were the major impacts for those who experienced financial consequences. 40 percent of the respondents lost health insurance and had to make payments out of their own pockets to restore coverage. Other issues the participants faced were inaccuracies in the medical records that had a negative impact on their healthcare; misdiagnosis following wrong data; and wrong medications. The strange thing is that half of the participants did not do anything to resolve the issue.
The survey seems to point out the fact that people consider their healthcare providers responsible for safeguarding their personal information. Sixty percent of the participants said they would move on to another provider if they found that their current provider was not trustworthy.
Though also a “family affair”, as the survey results point out, medical identity theft can have grave financial and medical risks. Healthcare providers and the government will have to improve their authentication procedures so that the medical services and products are not fraudulently utilized.