The government must be a leader in identifying and fighting medical identity theft and should make it a central part of health information technology initiatives, according to a new report from the Health and Human Services Department.
Medical identity theft poses serious dangers to consumers because false information in a person's health record could affect treatment, researchers said. For example, false information could lead to a person receiving the wrong medicine in an emergency room, resulting in the patient's injury or death. Health identity theft could also lead to financial costs for individuals, payers and providers and the loss of privacy for individuals.
"Government should take the lead to ensure that medical identity theft is taken into consideration as part of the broader interoperability, governance, and privacy and security initiatives associated with the interchange and protection of personal health data," the report states.
"Feedback from our research and the medical identity Town Hall [meeting] indicated agreement across the stakeholder community that the prevention and detection of medical identity theft needs to be built into and considered as an integral part of health IT activities now and in the future," the report continues.
Booz Allen Hamilton prepared the 28-page "Medical Identity Theft Final Report" for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. It is the final phase of a three-step review that included a definition and assessment of the problem and a town-hall meeting of stakeholders.
The Federal Trade Commission estimated in 2006 that about 250,000 people have been affected by medical identity theft to date, but the numbers could be much higher because there is no central clearinghouse for such information, the report states.