Identity Theft Articles

Non-compliance With Regulations Raises Data Breach Risk

Hospitals' failure to comply with new regulations is increasing the incidence data breaches and medical identity theft

A recent report continues to urge Americans to be aware of the increasing identity theft rate in the U.S. The Spring 2010 National Survey of Hospital Compliance Executives released by Identity Force reveals that data breaches and medical identity theft are becoming more prevalent, despite new regulations aimed at protecting patient medical information.

"It turns out that addressing the problems of data breaches and medical identity theft is proving more complex and time-consuming than hospitals counted on. It's interesting that many compliance experts now call into question whether or not even the new Healthcare Reform Law will ultimately help on these issues," Identity Force CEO Steven Bearak explained.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act was designed to make the healthcare industry more efficient while instituting better privacy protections. The HITECH Act raised the idea of transferring all patient medical and insurance information to an electronic health records system, according to HIPAA.

The survey shows that nearly 85 percent of hospitals are in noncompliance with the HITECH Act. Hospital breaches have increased by 120 percent from last years results, making 41 percent of hospitals responsible for at least 10 or more data breaches each year.

Medical identity theft is one of the fastest-growing forms of identity theft and poses significant risks to a victim's health. Criminals who obtain medical or insurance data can use the information to receive medical services under the victim's name. Criminals may also use the information to file false medical claims. The severe danger lies in the possible tampering of a victim's medical record.

A criminal may change information in a patient's record in order to obtain services or medication. If this goes unnoticed, a victim who may need surgery or emergency medical treatment could be given medication that they are allergic to or that may interfere with an underlying health condition.

Despite the prevalence and life-threatening dangers medical identity theft may impose, 71 percent of hospitals investigate no more than 50 cases of possible identity theft cases each year. The survey also showed that 48 percent of hospitals were not aware if their vendors or business associates were in compliance with the HITECH Act.

"Avoiding one substantial breach can save millions of dollars in costs," Bearak commented.

Identity theft affects more than 11 million Americans each year. Individuals should monitor and report any suspicious insurance claims or medical bills.