The importance of securing patient identity as health IT goes virtual
As value-based care increasingly becomes the healthcare norm, it is imperative to effectively address—and eliminate—the costly issues of medical identity theft, duplicate records and payment fraud across the full spectrum of care. These concerns become even more pressing with the growing prevalence of virtual care.
With cybercriminals and hackers becoming progressively more savvy in breaching health system data centers, and the black market value of protected health information (PHI) being at an all-time high, it is no wonder that an estimated one in three patient identity records are being compromised.1 These alarming facts provide even greater rationale for health systems to secure the “front door” and prevent invalid use of data and greater accuracy of the data collects. Each of these challenges can be overcome by enhancing the health services registration process—starting with a streamlined, standards-based, identity-proofing process.
The industry can no longer engage the expensive and inaccurate process of eliminating duplicate records by a back-end data recouncilation process that is unable to detect the $84 billion problem of medical identity theft. Even when identity-proofing standards are employed in biometric processes, this measure is primarily applied only within the silo of a specific delivery of care facility and not across multiple care settings. The patient needs the ability to establish one identity across the continuum of care, regardless of the electronic health record (EHR), further maximizing interoperability.
Without a comprehensive health IT solution to completely eliminate medical identity theft, there remains a continued risk for increased misdiagnoses, ineffective treatment plans and payment fraud. Health industry organizations must implement innovative, customized solutions, from the check-in and discharge area, to the patient room, lab and data center.
Correctly identifying patients and accurately matching them to their medical records across different healthcare settings is the key to bridging the legacy challenges within the current health system. Think of a health system without duplicate records, without medical identity theft, without payment fraud—yet one prepared to deterministically match patient records as part of a semantic, interoperable health data exchange ecosystem. Technology is evolving to capture and verify a patient’s identity and all associated records immediately upon admission by creating one “single and true” identity for all locations across the entire care continuum. These innovative solutions can help providers:
- Validate and permanently match patients with their correct medical records.
- Improve patient satisfaction and safety while increasing data and billing accuracy.
- Decrease patient processing time, data entry errors and administration costs.
- Eliminate duplicate patient records that can lead to medical inaccuracy, misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment.
Virtual care breaks barriers
An integral element of value-based care is extending medical treatment beyond the brick-and-mortar facilities and leveraging virtual care solutions. Virtual care engages patients who are limited by distance, chronic disabling conditions or the lack of local specialists/providers. Virtual health technologies have the ability to support patients along the path of awareness to wellness via remote data collection, monitoring, diagnostics and caregiver collaboration. With these innovative technologies, patients once isolated from receiving adequate treatment are able to get the care they need in their place of residence, helping to mitigate pervasive health equity and access issues.
As advanced as virtual care technology is at this moment, the future of this endeavor within health IT is turning new corners daily. Personal devices add a dimension of mobility that can literally bring care providers to the moment of medical crisis. Moreover, new technologies such as voice-activated devices successfully bridge the gap between virtual health opportunities and those patients who, for myriad reasons, are unable to physically use the necessary telehealth equipment.
Patient identity and virtual care
But virtual care also expands the aforementioned issues already associated with health IT. All data collection done during these remote sessions must be secure, confirmed and accurately integrated with the patient’s primary record. If the identity of a patient being treated via telehealth cannot be confirmed, it cannot be validated as part of a medical record. The same holds true for the patient data collected in the home and shared with the health team. Thus, to not only ensure security but also patient safety, critical health information needs to have 100 percent confidence in its source, associated identity and ability to be exchanged.
So when it comes to all facets of virtual care, how can patient records remain secure in settings outside the physical control of the caregivers? How can patient monitoring and diagnostics be accurately linked to the right patient every time? Moreover, it is often the case that virtual care patients are incapable of using the technology hardware that makes telehealth a successful option, whether due to disability or technophobia. What is the solution to effectively engage patients with telehealth solutions in these circumstances?
It’s time for leaders in IT health to focus on creating virtual care solutions that effectively address patient identity and health record integration issues, while also meeting the challenge to engage at-home patients in this burgeoning care paradigm.
- Information Age. Healthcare Fraud Five-Step Plan Diagnosis and Treatment. April 2016. http://www.information-age.com/technology/security/123461306/healthcare-fraud-fve-step-plan-diagnosis-and-treatment
By Tom Foley, Director of Global Health Solutions Strategy