How to Protect Important Documents and Medical Information

The threat of financial fraud and identity theft looms large in our day-to-day. There are exposes on credit card fraud and email phishing scams. In comparison, how to protect important documents and medical information receives far less attention and investigation. Yet, medical identity theft and fraud are far too common and incredibly costly – and it is necessary for everyone to pinpoint the ways we could better safeguard medical information.

Why Should You Protect Medical Information?

Medical identity theft is steadily increasing in the United States, and the need to protect medical information is more urgent than ever before. While similar to financial theft, medical identity theft is the intentional theft of identity information, such as Social Security Number, Medicaid and Medicare information, and medical records, to receive fraudulent medical care. 

There are a number of ways to commit medical fraud, including fraudulent billing schemes, submission to insurance companies for procedures not performed, and misrepresenting the type of services provided. There are health care schemes uncovered each year that implicate consumers, doctors, nurses, insurance companies, and others in the fraudulent activity. However, medical identity theft specifically requires the use of false personal information to acquire services or insurance benefits belonging to another person.

Over time medical identities became more valuable. Identity Force, a fraud detection and alert system, estimates that medical information is 20 to 50 times more valuable than financial personal information. 

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Medical information often contains all personal identification information in a single record, not just one or two markers. For example, credit card fraud is usually the theft of a person’s credit card number, name on the card, and expiration date. A medical record can have an address, full name, other names, payment information, Social Security Number, other ID numbers, place of employment, insurance provider, etc. The black market price of medical information is roughly  $250 per record, compared to $6 for credit card information.

This has only led to more regular and bigger breaches of hospital records, government agencies, and insurance companies. Ransomware and other malicious softwares are now the most common way for bad actors to attack medical records and information. By not taking active steps to know how to protect important documents and medical information, you are at high risk of exposure.

Financial Cost of Compromised Medical Records

Need more of a reason to protect your personal health information

Conservatively 3% of all health care spending in the United States is attributed to fraud. That equates to roughly $2.26 trillion worth of fraudulent payments and claims made in the private and public sectors. There are other reports that estimate 10% of all health care activity is fraudulent, which would increase the costs of fraudulent activity to $230 trillion annually.

The impact of health care fraud trickles down to directly impact your personal costs. The more fraud committed in the public and private sector, the more hospitals and medical groups must charge for services and procedures. Here’s how these costs end up impacting every health care consumer and patient.

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Insurance companies are often the unsuspecting victims of medical identity theft, but these for-profit entities will not be left holding the bag. When medical fraud is uncovered, insurance companies turn around and require higher premiums for consumers and health care providers to receive coverage. There isn’t a medical practice in the United States that can provide care without malpractice and other insurance, and most indvidiuals pay some insurance and health care costs out of pocket. 

Higher insurance costs turn into higher prices for each and every procedure. Health care costs already outpace the average income for many Americans, and fraud is only driving up the price.

Additionally, if we don’t know how to protect important documents and medical information, there is a tax impact. A huge portion of medical identity fraud committed in the United States is against Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are funded by federal tax dollars. Each fraudulent charge is covered by us, the taxpayers. 

So while there are many reasons to protect your personal health information, bettering the entire system is very high on the list.

Loss of Privacy with Compromised Medical Records

These financial costs are all in addition to the invasion of privacy and deep mistrust that can come from compromised medical records, Medical providers and third party vendors are required to keep medical records confidential, often even from legal probes, because it is your right as an individual to keep this information private. 

There is a long history between privacy and the need to protect medical information. In the past, medical information was used for discrimination in communities, employment, and even government benefits. For example, employers may illegally rescind a job offer upon learning the candidate was pregnant or a board could refuse a cancer patient the opportunity to serve. Without appropriate legal safeguards preventing this type of discrimination, medical privacy was crucial.

Today, the desire to keep medical information private varies person-to-person. For some, there is a deep need to keep medical information private, just for the sake of privacy itself. Medical conditions can be complicated or difficult to discuss, and it is every individual’s right to keep that information out of public conversation. 

How to Protect Your Personal Health Information

Medical records and medical information have become more accessible over time. Digital records allow patients to access their information faster, transfer records between providers, and often receive better care. Yet, these technological changes have also made it more complicated and difficult to know how to protect your personal health information. Here are four tips that apply to our digital world.

Be Cautious with Medical Disclosures

The best way to guard your medical information is to carefully limit the number of people with access to records and information. There is a limited list of times when disclosure of your medical history and personal medical information is required: when seeking new coverage from an insurance provider and when seeing a new medical provider. Beyond these necessary disclosures, you can protect your personal health information by carefully assessing disclosures to other vendors.

Some optional disclosures include opportunities for medical research, participation in medical trials or optional care, and marketing opportunities. However, many consumers are also sharing their medical information in non-traditional ways. Disclosures on social media, non-medical businesses, fundraising opportunities, and even family and friends make it more difficult to protect medical information

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Medical information, in particular insurance numbers and identification information, should not be shared to public forums or platforms. A leading example today is disclosure of medical information to public fundraising platforms, such as GoFundMe. While these online services provide a new forum for covering medical costs and expensive procedures, what is shared and by whom must be thoughtfully filtered.

Finally, research applications and platforms that intake your medical records and data. Identity theft protection software, medical groups, insurance companies, medical research teams, and even testing companies, such as LabCorp have applications that can store, share, and auto-update medical information. You want to be certain you protect your personal health information on these apps.

Leading the charge on encryption and security of your medical data is FOUND ME. Our global platform allows individuals to upload critical medical information into our application, but limits visibility and eliminates any public disclosure. This unique functionality allows emergency personnel to access lifesaving information, without exposing users to unwanted and dangerous disclosures.

Know How Your Medical Information Is Shared

Wondering how to protect important documents and your medical identity? It isn’t enough to limit direct disclosures of your medical information. 

Doctors, insurance companies, and medical services all make disclosures to third-party vendors within the course of business. There are direct requirements for any disclosure under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for how and when medical information can be shared, but do not confuse these restrictions and requirements with a ban on disclosures.

Electronic health records platforms and medical equipment and device companies are a couple examples of common third-party vendors. Sometimes, these vendors are the weakest link for cyber and information attacks. If you want to protect your personal health information, you must consider these third-party disclosures too.

You should always know what disclosures your medical provider and insurance company are making. All you need to do is ask for this information. If you are uncomfortable with the vendors listed or want to safeguard certain information, such as your driver’s license number, you can request to opt out.

Further, third party disclosure is common in other industries impacting or adjacent to medical professions. You want to be cautious that any application or platform you grant access to medical information and data uses it correctly. Web services and applications are required to make terms of service and privacy policies available to all users. These documents will list how and where the platform stores information and how they plan to use any data provided.

FOUND ME provides transparent information on our third party platforms and how we actively secure your data. It is extremely important that our application, designed specifically to keep your information safe, is built with leading encryption and safety technology.

Review All Medical Bills and Electronic Medical Record

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How to protect important documents begins by reviewing the records and billing for your medical care. Medical identity theft leaves a paper trail, but it is often up to the consumer to notice errors and inaccurate charges. Most medical practices and insurance companies have routine and electronic processes for claims and billing. While efficient and effective for the businesses, the same practices do not always protect medical information

Do not ignore billing mistakes, even if sent to insurance. Always ask for an explanation of charges, if you are uncertain what procedures and care is outlined on the bill. Immediately report any incorrect charges or unreceived services to your medical provider and insurance company. Finally, be aggressive in reporting any medical bills in your name for care you did not receive.

Another routine place to review care and medical history is on your electronic medical record. Your electronic medical record or electronic health record (EHR) is a digital version of the physical, paper records kept in a medical practice or doctor’s office. Most hospitals and medical groups are transitioning to digital first filing and record-keeping systems, which simultaneously makes these records accessible to patients. 

You can request your electronic health record through your healthcare provider, and frequently, these records are already available for review through an online platform or application. You will want to report any procedure or treatment that you did not receive and ask for a correction to the records. Further, errors or inconsistencies in your electronic medical records can indicate underlying medical fraud or identity theft.

Keep Your Insurance Card Secure

Do you consider your health insurance card as necessary and personal as your Social Security Card? You should. Your health insurance information is crucial for receiving appropriate scheduled, elective, and certain emergency medical care. Yet, we often throw around our insurance information like it is replaceable and acceptable public knowledge. 

There is extensive personal information on your health insurance card. It will list your full name, any beneficiary or dependents on your policy, and the names of family members in your group. Further, your insurance card will state the insurance provider, group number, and policy number. Some insurance companies also print address and contact information on physical or electronic cards. 

How to Protect Important Documents with FOUND ME

FOUND ME was designed to keep you, your loved ones, and valuables safe. At the forefront of our minds in designing a versatile product was how to improve the security and sharing of medical information, You see, we know that there are both too many unwanted medical disclosure and too few reliable platforms to accommodate appropriate and lifesaving medical information exchange.

For individuals invested in how to protect important documents and other medical information, FOUND ME is a cloud-based, secure platform, where documentation, records, and even test results can be uploaded to a user profile. However, each user determines exactly how much information and what documents are visible when a medical QR code is scanned. 

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For example, our customers are using FOUND ME to simultaneously share and protect COVID-19 information. Test results, vaccine information, and documentation regarding COVID-19 can be input into your Found Me app for use at airports and other in-person services, including elective surgeries. You can unlock and display this information within the app, but know that your records are encrypted and secure when not in use or designated as private. 

If you want to begin using FOUND ME’s secure solution to sharing medical information and documents, you can join our family of users by heading to our platform.