Medical Identity Theft on the Rise

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Open Up Dentists – and Physicians, Too!

[By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS]

If I tell you that your patients’ insurance identities can be sold for $50 each, how much will you trust your employees on Monday, Doc?

The Experts Speak

According to a panel of cyber-security experts at a recent Digital Health Conference, medical identity theft has become one of the most lucrative forms of identity theft. “DHC: EHR Data Target for Identity Thieves” by MedPage Today Associate Staff Writer Cole Petrochko, was posted last week

http://www.medpagetoday.com/PracticeManagement/InformationTechnology/30074

“Presentations at the Digital Health Conference here indicated that a single patient’s electronic health records can fetch $50 on the black market — a much fatter target than more familiar forms of identity theft, such as Social Security numbers ($3), credit card information ($1.50), date of birth ($3), or mother’s maiden name ($6).”

eMRs Not Like Credit-Cards

“And, unlike a credit card number, patients’ healthcare records cannot be cancelled or changed to prevent stolen data from being used by criminals”, said John DeLuca, of EMC Corp., an information technology company.

The Street Value of eDRs 

What do you want to bet that medical identities downloaded from dentists’ computers bring $50; as well. I’d like to share a special, visceral sentiment with my shy, HIPAA covered colleagues:

I warned you, damn it! And, I assume, just like virtually all other silent dentists in the nation, you’ve done NOTHING to safeguard your patients’ identities. Even if you don’t like truth served bluntly, this dentist has your reputation in mind when I warn that if your practice experiences a reportable data breach of over 500 records, and your patients’ identities aren’t encrypted, those who choose to remain with your practice will never trust you as much as they do today – even if you properly report the breach. Of the estimated 20% who will never return, many will probably look for a gentle dentist who doesn’t store patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI) on computers …. Like me. (Yea, that was a sales pitch. As one might expect, I certainly welcome discussion of it with anyone).

ADA Laggards 

After 5 years of awaiting responses from unaccountable leaders inside and outside the American Dental Association concerning HIPAA and EDRs, It feels really good to aggravate 9 out of 10 dentists still reading this – challenging those who normally take offense with professional stoicism to loosen up and share their feelings with everyone for once … God help me, I do love this so.

More About the Black Market 

The black market price for EHRs has increased ten-fold in the last 5 years. In 2006, I warned in a guest column on WTN that it only takes one dishonest employee needing a couple of thousand quick dollars to potentially bankrupt a practice almost without risk of being caught. Back then, the black market price for a stolen medical identity was estimated at only $5 (See: “Careful with that electronic health record, Mr. Leavitt,” WTN News, October 18, 2006).

http://wtnnews.com/articles/3407/

It’s no secret that reticent ADA officials like President-elect Dr. Robert Faiella have suspiciously failed in their duty to be transparent with dues-paying members about the liabilities of the EHRs – even as they continue to recklessly promote paperless practices. The result: Almost all dentists in theUSstill maintain patients’ unencrypted medical identities on their office computers – often guarded by a flimsy password that is still cute a decade later. (Did I hear a gasp?).

Consider This!

Consider this, Doc! If a practice has 3000 active patients with identities worth $150,000, all one dishonest employee needs for dreams to come true is a flash drive and private time with your computer.

Assessment

Show me a dentist who thinks the benefits of EHRs to dental patients still outweigh the liabilities and I’ll show you a dangerously naive healthcare provider who probably doesn’t know about KPMG Auditors. Let’s face the facts bravely, Doc. Now would be a terrible time to invest in an EDR system – even cloud based. The proven, avoidable danger EDRs bring to American dental patients is unacceptable and only getting worse. Give it a year or so.

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