7 Ways To Prevent Identity Theft in Medical Offices

I previously wrote about the proposed FTC “Red Flag” regulations that will make doctors responsible for verifying photo IDs and protecting patient identities that no one yet knows how to possibly deal with.  

Here’s some immediate practical steps you can take  —Seven steps you can take to thwart medical identity theft and minimize its impact on patients:

  1. Verify the patient’s identity. Ask for photo identification and compare it to the insurance card. Make a copy of the ID the patient presents, and flag any characteristics of new patients that could help you to identify that patient later.
  1. Don’t assume information in the medical record is correct. For example, double check the patient’s blood type.  If the patient’s type does not match the information you have in your file, then that is a strong indicator that you are dealing with an imposter.
  1. Keep patient records secure, as required by federal law and any specific laws in your state.
  1.  Be prepared to honor requests from patients to correct medical records resulting from identity theft, help them determine how and where the medical identity theft occurred, and obtain accountings of any disclosures of their information as permitted by HIPAA.  If you are hesitant to remove data from the medical record, create a second file and ‘red flag’ that more than one person may be using the same name. 
  1. Watch your employees. Conduct background checks to filter out applicants involved in financial crimes. Beware of employees who inappropriately access patient files and loiter in areas where they should not be.
  1. Have written policies on document destruction. Shred documents before putting them into a dumpster.
  1. Assist victims of medical identity theft. A patient who had his/her identity stolen might be half-way across the country. They are going to be upset but a helpful attitude can go a long way towards assuaging a patient’s anger. Keep a contact list handy and take time to answer their questions.  

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