Not so long ago, your medical records existed as paper files that had to be manually updated. If you traveled, they might exist in multiple locations so that no one healthcare facility had a complete picture. Today, everything is stored digitally, and can be shared around the country or around the world, if necessary. But at the same time, this increases your exposure to cyber criminals. Here are some ways to ensure your medical data stays safe.
1. Use Secure Access
The federal government’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations require healthcare providers to protect your electronic data. Yet in the last year there have been 253 medical data breaches. Often the risk comes from the means by which patients access their own information. Never use public Wi-Fi; ensure that the apps or sites you use are encrypted, and change your password regularly.
2. Qualified Caregivers
If you have any questions or concerns about how your medical records are managed, ask your healthcare provider. For example, although your caregivers may be well-qualified in medical training, such as earning a bachelor’s in diagnostic medical sonography, they may not know how those images are stored and shared. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions. You might reconsider caregivers that can’t provide the answers.
3. Review Your Medical Records Information
It’s a good idea to check on your information before and after a doctor’s appointment to be sure everything is correct and you understand your treatment. Some cyber criminals commit identity theft so that they can bill for treatments that never took place and collect money for a phony clinic. Review everything on your EOB (explanation of benefits) statement to be sure this isn’t happening. Report any instances of suspected fraud.
4. Be Cautious
You should always treat your medical information with the same care as though you were protecting credit card information. This includes billing and insurance information that may have account numbers or SSNs. Don’t share it with anyone, don’t provide medical staff the information out loud, particularly around other patients, and shred any paper documents or copies once you’ve reviewed them.
5. Know Your Rights
Medical Records Are Valuable To Criminals
Healthcare information is a gold mine for identity thieves and fraudsters. You should be confident that both you and your provider are setting a high priority on security. Keep these things in mind in all aspects of your health, and the odds are sure to be in your favor when it comes to privacy.