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August 17, 2021

How to Prevent Medical Identity Theft at Home and at the Office

Medical identity theft is growing at a faster rate than any other identity crime in America. Data breaches of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia and Humana both show the threat this type of crime poses to citizens of Atlanta.

But what is medical identity theft? Medical identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to get medical care. They may take your name, Social Security number, health insurance information, or other protected health information and use it to get prescription drugs or see a doctor. This deceptive action can make it difficult for you to get care in the future.

To add insult to injury, these thieves aren’t just targeting one person at a time; they’re also targeting health insurance companies and medical service providers in order to gain access to patient information by the thousands. If you oversee an organization in the healthcare industry, it’s important to understand the consequences of allowing data to fall into the wrong hands.

Consequences of Medical Identity Theft in the Healthcare Industry

Medical identity theft can quite literally cost your organization. Even if a breach is the result of a mistake, should that employee be found negligent, they and their employer could face stiff fines.

How stiff? The maximum penalty can be as much as $50,000 per incident ,or $1.5 million per year. This category also represents the lowest possible level of penalty. If an employee is found to be “willfully neglectful” through reckless actions or disregard for stated compliance, the minimum is $10,000 per violation, presuming that the issue has been corrected within the required period of time. When the issue is not corrected, that minimum skyrockets to $50,000 per violation with an allowable annual maximum of $1.5 million.

As you can see, an employee does not have to be a criminal or have malicious intent in order to cost your healthcare organization dearly. The federal government takes patient privacy very seriously, which has been one of the driving factors in the push towards electronic health records. Even with efforts like heavy data encryption and security, something as basic as allowing a hard drive or stack of forms to linger in the wrong spot for too long can easily bankrupt most practices or peripheral medical businesses.

How to Prevent Medical Identity Theft at Your Organization

There are a few ways that individuals can combat the issue of medical identity theft and protect the documents that contain their medical information so that others can’t access it. This includes keeping documents stored in a safe place, securely shredding documents that are no longer needed, and getting statements online if possible. You should also be wary of giving out medical information, and always review your medical records and Explanation of Benefits statements to make sure they are only recording services you received, and none that you didn’t.

There are also many ways that medical service providers and health insurance companies can protect patient information to prevent data breaches that expose personal information to hackers. Medical document security services in the form of hard drive destruction and mobile paper shredding are some of the only means Atlanta citizens have to prevent medical identity theft. Any time sensitive information is left to linger in either physical or digital form, the potential for theft becomes greater by the second. Do not risk placing your information or your patients’ information in the crosshairs of criminals: Enlist the help of professional document security professionals to put everyone’s minds further at ease.

How to Remain Compliant with Patient Information Protection Laws

The federal government can enforce fines and punishments for leaked patient information due to a federal act called HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act is designed to protect patient records while they are in storage, and requires secure destruction of files that are no longer needed.

While being fully-compliant with HIPAA involves thorough knowledge of all their security guidelines, healthcare businesses can start by protecting the vestiges of data left in no-longer-used documents and hard drives. A medical record shredding service can lessen the risk of using physical forms for patient registration or information printouts. Mobile shredding trucks can even come to you to destroy thousands of pounds of documents in mere minutes. There is even no need to remove staples, rubber bands, and the like.

For computers with stored health records on them, simply “wiping” the memory is not an option. Resourceful technically-minded criminals can still access supposedly deleted files and piece together patient profiles with relatively scattered information. Complete hard drive destruction is the only option to safely eliminate all chances of sensitive information being recovered.

Consider either of these two services in conjunction with data security to protect your patients and your business from the very real consequences of medical identity theft

Where to Find Medical Shredding Services in Atlanta

Whether you are looking to protect your own personal information and keep medical identity theft at bay, or are looking for ways to help streamline your healthcare organization’s steps to comply with federal privacy regulations, PROSHRED® Georgia can help. We provide a selection of paper shredding services as well as hard drive destruction services to businesses and organizations in the Atlanta area, and pay strict attention to security protocol to make sure your information is never at risk of being stolen or otherwise compromised. For more information about how our shredding process works or to get a quote, give us a call today. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and get you set up on a regularly scheduled shredding program that will help eliminate your fears of medical identity theft for good.

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