The amount of personal information available online is staggering. Every aspect of our lives is stored on a server somewhere in the digital universe. Bank details, healthcare information, and even our sexual preferences if we subscribe to an illicit extra marital dating website. The fact that this information is stored online is nothing new, but what should be of concern is how easy it is for hackers to access this information. So how safe is your medical data and how worried should you be?
Medical identity theft is on the rise. Previously, when medical information was stored in paper files, it was difficult to steal large amounts of confidential information. Now, thanks to a technological revolution, skilled hackers can access anyone’s mental health EMR and use that data for their own nefarious purposes.
Online Data Breaches
Usually the goal is monetary gain, but occasionally confidential information about a patient’s medical history may end up in the public domain. If you are a healthy individual, this might not be an issue, but if you have mental health issues or an embarrassing medical affliction, you probably don’t want the details splashed all over the internet.
Medical Identity Theft
We are all familiar with the problem of identity theft. After all, credit cards are often cloned and the money used to fund a spending spree. This type of theft is annoying and sometimes very costly, but medical identity theft is capable of causing even more damage.
If your medical identity is stolen, criminals can use it to obtain medical care in your name. All they have to do is check into a hospital using your personal details and you will be left paying the bill. The damage is not always just financial – if a criminal has had medical treatment in your name, your medical records will be incorrect, which could affect you when you need medical care in the future. Imagine how difficult it would be to persuade a doctor to remove your rumbling appendix if your medical records say the procedure has already been carried out.
Protect Your Data
There are several ways patients can protect themselves from the pain of medical data theft.
It is sensible to avoid sharing too much personal information with doctors and insurers. The more information stored in your medical records, the easier it is for criminals to use it against you.
Check your credit records regularly. That way you will be able to spot any anomalies such as unusual medical bills.
Do not fall victim to phishing emails. Millions of these emails are sent out every day. Most are deleted, but there will always be a few naïve souls who fall victim to an email offering medical services at a ‘bargain’ price.
Organized criminal gangs are often one step ahead of medical institutions, which makes data loss a huge problem. Preventing data hacks and medical fraud requires a multi-faceted approach from patients, hospitals, insurers and government agencies. To prevent it from happening to you, be very careful about what you share, and if you do spot a problem, contact the appropriate agency immediately.
[Royalty Free photo source]