Over 20 million individuals had their personal and medical information compromised earlier this month during a data breach at American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) that affected Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, and Opko customers. The highly sensitive and personal nature of the information stolen during the breach raises the significant question: How can I protect myself from medical identity theft? Here are just a few tips to help minimize your risk.
Whether it is your medical provider, pharmacy, or billing department, do not offer up any more information than is absolutely necessary. Obviously, you don’t want to hide pertinent information that could affect your care. Just don’t overshare. Especially when you are standing in line at a full pharmacy where anyone can overhear intimate details they can use steal your identity.
Check your medical records periodically for errors.
You have the right under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to have access to your own medical records. Make sure the information in your chart is accurate. If you find a medical error, or suspect suspicious activity, notify your health care provider and health insurer immediately. Your insurance company’s fraud department can walk you thru what to do next. If fraud is identified, report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via an identity theft report as soon as possible.
While you are getting your records, verify just how secure those records are by asking questions.
Your health care provider’s health information management department should be able to tell you exactly how they are protecting your personal and medical information. Push-back for asking questions raises a huge red flag of concern. Likewise, before you log in to your “patient portal” ensure the web address is secure. You should see “https” at the beginning of the URL.
AVS (After Visit Summary) are big pushes from electronic medical records.
This paperwork handed to you at the end of your visit is meant to contain important information and instructions to follow after your visit. NEVER throw that paper into a trash bin or leave it lying around. Shredding the document is the best protection. If you don’t own a shredder, you can tear it up yourself, or return it to your healthcare provider to shred at the next visit.