Medical identity theft sees sharp uptick
The number of patients affected by medical identity theft increased nearly 22 percent over the past year, according to a new report from the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance – an increase of nearly half a million victims since 2013.
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In five years since the survey began, the number of medical identity theft incidents has nearly doubled to more than two million victims, according to MIFA, a public/private partnership committed to strengthening healthcare by reducing medical identity fraud,
"Over the past five years, we've seen medical identity theft steadily rising with no signs of slowing," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, which conducted the study. "Our research shows more than two million Americans were victims of medical identity theft in 2014, nearly a quarter more than the number of people impacted last year."
In San Diego March 5-6, the two-day Privacy & Security Forum, presented by Healthcare IT News and HIMSS Media, featuring 26 sessions and 40 speakers from healthcare organizations such as Kaiser Permanente and Intermountain Healthcare, will put the focus on cyber crime and data security, discussing best practices to help keep these numbers in check.
[See also: Medical identity theft most potent kind]
Other findings from the report:
- Sixty-five percent of medical identity theft victims surveyed paid more than $13,000 to resolve the crime. In 2014, medical identity theft cost consumers more than $20 billion in out-of-pocket costs. The number of victims experiencing out-of-pocket cost rose significantly from 36 percent in 2013 to 65 percent in 2014.
- Victims are seldom informed by their healthcare provider or insurer. On average, victims learn about the theft of their credentials more than three months following the crime and 30 percent do not know when they became a victim. Of those respondents (54 percent) who found an error in their Explanation of Benefits, about half did not know to whom to report the claim.
- In many cases, victims struggle to reach resolution following a medical identity theft incident. Only 10 percent of survey respondents reported achieving completely satisfactory conclusion of the incident. Consequently, many respondents are at risk for further theft or errors in healthcare records that could jeopardize medical treatments and diagnosis.
- Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) say medical identity theft affected their reputation in some way. Of those, nearly 90 percent suffered embarrassment stemming from disclosure of sensitive personal health conditions and more than 20 percent of respondents believe the theft caused them to miss out on career opportunities or lose employment.
- A large majority of respondents (79 percent) expect their healthcare providers to ensure the privacy of their health records. Forty-eight percent say they would consider changing healthcare providers if their medical records were lost or stolen. If a breach does occur, 40 percent expect prompt notification to come from the responsible organization.
"2015 will be a year of increased attention to the pervasiveness and damaging effects of medical identity theft," said Ann Patterson, senior vice president and program director at MIFA, in a press statement. "As we've already seen this year, the healthcare industry is and will continue to be a major target for hackers. Stolen personal information can be used for identity theft, including medical identity theft and the impact to victims can be life-threatening."
Access the full report here.