360° Coverage : How Secure Are Your Medical Records?

2 Updates
How Secure Are Your Medical Records?
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

How Secure Are Your Medical Records?

Dec 28 2013, 12:07am CST | by

10 Incredibly Simple Things You Can Do To Protect Your Privacy There are many moments when I’m grateful for the ways technology has enabled me to me take charge of my health. When I email my ...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

37 weeks ago

How Secure Are Your Medical Records?

Dec 28 2013, 12:07am CST | by

10 Incredibly Simple Things You Can Do To Protect Your Privacy

There are many moments when I’m grateful for the ways technology has enabled me to me take charge of my health. When I email my doctor to ask a question, for example, or every time I sign into my online health insurance account to review a claim. Or whenever I browse the Internet to research a medical condition or track my exercise and diet accomplishments with my smartphone apps.

Still, there are many moments when I’m troubled about technology’s potential impact on the privacy of my medical records. I wonder: Who else is reading the emails I send my doctor? Who’s tracking me when I research an ingrown toenail online? Even more disconcerting is my “personal health record” on my health insurer’s website — a list of my prescriptions and ailments based on doctor visits and pharmacy purchases.

And given the shaky start to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), my concern about computer security has increased even more lately.

Should I be worried? Should you?

(MORESneaky Ways Wellness Apps Invade Your Privacy)

What Privacy Experts Say

To find out, I turned to several privacy experts and asked their advice on the best ways to protect our medical records.

“We should all be concerned about medical privacy,” says Adam Levin, chairman ofCredit.com and Identity Theft 911. The reason, he explains, is simple: There are a lot of people and companies involved in processing medical payments — doctors, labs, insurers, pharmacists, pharmacy benefit managers (intermediaries between drug stores and insurers), even banks that process credit and debit cards payments — and “an awful lot of data is moving back and forth” among them. Many of these transmissions, Levin says, may not be properly encrypted.

It’s not just an idle concern. Levin told me that “breaches upon breaches have occurred in the medical area.”

One way that medical ID theft occurs is when a thief uses your name and perhaps your insurance information or Social Security number to obtain care. Alternatively, a con artist might use your identity to create a phony bill, allowing him to scam money out of others, particularly Medicare or insurers.

The results can be devastating: You could be harassed by debt collectors. You might be turned down for a job or promotion if a false diagnosis, such as depression, appears on your medical record. You could receive an incorrect diagnosis or treatment — for example, if someone swiped your identity, which then changed the blood type and allergies appearing in your records or added a bogus ailment to your charts.

What’s more, phony medical claims could prompt your health insurer to deny future claims, saying you exceeded its plan’s limits.

(MORE7 Steps to Protect Your Online Security)

Less nefarious — although possibly more detrimental — is that your medical records and the health info you share on social media sites or through smartphone apps could be used to deny you insurance or boost your premiums. (That’s why you should think twice before signing up for apps that track weight, blood glucose levels and even your anxiety level.)

Loopholes in a Law

But wait. What about those papers doctors make you sign on your initial visits, as a result of the 1996 HIPAA law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and say which records can be disclosed and to whom. Aren’t they supposed to protect your privacy?/>/>

Actually, that law excludes life insurers, self-help websites, companies collecting health data given voluntarily to surveys or research and firms that conduct medical screenings at pharmacies, shopping centers and other public places.

As a result, “people are frequently targeted with marketing communications based on information obtained outside of HIPAA protections,” says Deven McGraw, director of the Center for Democracy & Technology’s health privacy project.

Also not covered: over-the-counter drugs (use your frequent shopper’s card to buy Preparation H at the drugstore or supermarket and others may ultimately find out).

As a result of all these loopholes, according to the World Privacy Forum, even if you try to keep certain procedures or diagnoses private, it’s almost impossible to do.

Electronic recordkeeping has made patients’ medical information much more accessible, too. “For many years, medical information was trapped in Manila folders” and inaccessible to fraudsters, says Lauren Fifield, government affairs and policy advisor to Practice Fusion, a San Francisco-based firm providing electronic health networks and records to doctors and patients.

With electronic records, she adds, patients “need to take personal responsibility for their information” to make sure it is protected.

8 Tips to Protect Your Medical Privacy

Here are eight tips on how to begin that process:

1. Aak your doctor and other medical practitioners about how they share your medical information and with whom. “Some providers are more sensitive than others, so find one you can trust,” says McGraw.

2. Read your privacy rights. Closely examine the forms you fill out in medical offices. Some provisions vary from doctor to doctor.

3. Don’t readily give out your Social Security number if your doctor’s office asks for it.“Ask why they need it,” says Levin. “If they have your insurance information, they shouldn’t need your Social Security number too.”

Of course, if you’re on Medicare, your SSN is your billing ID number (plus a single letter that follows). In that case, take a precautionary step to reduce the chance of identity theft by making a copy of the card to carry with you and then blacking out your Social Security number in case your wallet is ever stolen.

4. Read your insurance bills carefully, even if no money is due. To make sure no one has stolen your identity, be certain you weren’t charged for office visits you didn’t make or procedures you never received. If you spot any inaccuracies, report them to your insurer immediately.

5. Review your credit report annually. Many medical ID theft victims have discovered they were scammed after spotting a collection notice from a hospital or medical lab in their credit report. If that happens to you, contact the credit bureau immediately to report the identity theft and contest the notice with the collection agency. (You can get a free credit report once a year at Annualcreditreport.com.)

6. Think twice about installing health and fitness apps on your smartphone. None of the data these apps collect are covered by HIPAA. Before signing up, read the fine print of each app’s privacy policy. (For more details, read my previous story, “Sneaky Ways Wellness Apps Invade Your Privacy.”

7. Be discreet browsing the Internet. Some search engines, such as Google, track your searches, often to sell to third-party advertising sites. So if you’re browsing something medically sensitive that you don’t want tracked, consider using search engines that refrain from that common practice. Washington, D.C. privacy consultant Robert Gellman likes Startpage.com and Duckduckgo.com./>/>

8. Be cautious about providing personal medical information for surveys and screenings and to health sites and pharmaceutical companies. Ask how the information will be used and who who’ll have access to it. If you don’t like what you hear, just say “no.”

Caroline Mayer is a consumer reporter who spent 25 years working for The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter @consumermayer.

Source: Forbes Business

 
Update
2

2 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company ( ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

2 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17" hi ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Israeli PM eyes big increase in defence spending
Jerusalem, Sep 15 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday said he was supporting an increase in defence spending in the upcoming 2015 budget in opposition to the stance of the finance minister, which may lead to the collapse of his political coalition.
 
 
President reaches Vietnam
Hanoi, Sep 14 (IANS) Indian President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday arrived here on a four-day state visit to Vietnam during which an agreement will be signed on scouting for oil and gas in the South China Sea.
 
 
President reaches Vietnam on state visit
Hanoi, Sep 14 (IANS) Indian President Pranab Mukherjee arrived here Sunday on a four-day state visit to Vietnam during which an agreement will be signed on scouting for oil and gas in the South China Sea.
 
 
Zebrafish model to treat common neurological disorder
New York, Sep 14 (IANS) Researchers have found that the learning and memory components of disorder neurofibromatosis (NF1), a genetic disease, are distinct features that are likely to need different treatment approaches.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Delhi marathoner Ashis Roy, 82, takes his tally to 138
Washington, Sep 15 (IANS) India's marathon man Ashis Roy has added another half marathon to his bag to take his overall tally to 138 as he completed his 23rd 13.1-mile run in the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon here....
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Brazilian soccer standings
Rio de Janeiro, Sep 15 (IANS) Following are the standings of the Brazilian Serie A championship after the latest round of matches Saturday and Sunday (tabulated under games played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Post Winfrey's show, Lohan was forced to leave NY
London, Sep 15 (IANS) Troubled actress Lindsay Lohan claims her controversial stint on Oprah Winfrey's reality show left her little choice but to relocate overseas. Lohan, who is currently staying here, talked about...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Singapore air quality reaches unhealthy range
Singapore, Sep 15 (IANS) Air quality in Singapore crossed the "unhealthy" line Monday morning, as the three-hour pollutant standards index (PSI) reached 113 at around 6 a.m. And by 7 a.m. fell slightly to 111. A PSI...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Hamburg lose, Augsburg win in German Bundesliga
Berlin, Sep 15 (IANS) Hamburg suffer their second straight loss while Augsburg grab their first victory to close the third round of Bundesliga Sunday, Xinhua reports. Hannover upset Hamburg 2-0 at the Northern derby,...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
How Kate Hudson keeps romance alive?
Los Angeles, Sep 15 (IANS) Actress Kate Hudson has devised a formula for long-lasting relationship - she refuses to spend more than two weeks away from her beau, Muse frontman Matt Bellamy. She also plans regular date...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
US win Basketball World Cup
Madrid, Sep 15 (IANS) The US retained their title as world basketball champions Sunday with a crushing 129-92 win over Serbia in the final held in Madrid's Palacio de Deportes, Xinhua reported. The Americans may have...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Egypt urges global support to curb floods in Sinai
Cairo, Sep 15 (IANS) Egypt Sunday called for global support and cooperation to address the seasonal flash floods that cause great losses in the mountainous Sinai Peninsula. The appeal was made during the second Arab...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Robert Downey Jr. in awe of wife's beauty
Los Angeles, Sep 15 (IANS) Actor Robert Downey Jr has heaped praise on his wife Susan Downey calling her "beautiful". Susan, a producer, is expecting their second child, and Downey Jr. feels she looks better than ever...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
400 migrants feared dead near Malta
Valletta, Sep 15 (IANS) At least 400 migrants were feared dead after two boats carrying them capsized in the Mediterranean Sea near Malta, media reports said Sunday. Three migrants, who said they were Palestinians and...
Read more on Politics Balla