identity verification

Identity Verification in Telemedicine: What You Need to Know

Even the darkest storm has a silver lining. When talking of the COVID pandemic, the acceleration of telemedicine could be considered a silver lining. Telemedicine isn’t a new idea. You might be surprised to know that doctors were treating patients over the radio back in 1925. That said, adoption accelerated during the pandemic with telehealth visits increasing by 154% between March 2019 and March 2020.

Virtual care is convenient and beneficial to patients and healthcare providers but it does come with risks. Fraudsters can misuse patient identities to source drugs or hack into databases. Medical identity theft could lead to life-and-death scenarios. Hence, as we work on making medical care more accessible, healthcare providers must simultaneously take steps to ensure that the people they are treating are who they claim to be. This is where identity verification becomes vital.

How does identity verification work?

There are many layers to identity verification. Identity verification tools work at authenticating patient identities in real-time.

The first step is to check the documentation submitted. The information on the documents is checked against information stored in third-party databases to verify its accuracy and validity. Information important for medical purposes such as the patient’s age is also verified. While comparing records from the two databases, identity verification tools may also be able to add missing information such as phone numbers, email addresses, street names, etc. The ID documents are also screened against global watchlists and sanctions lists.

In addition to verifying a patient’s identity documents, verification tools also use liveness tests to ensure that the patient on paper and the patient in person are the same. For this, the patient must upload a selfie or a video of themselves holding the photo identity document. Biometric scanners then compare the selfie and the photograph on the identity document to ensure that they are the same.

How can identity verification improve telemedicine services?

While doctors are experts in the field of medicine, they may not be trained sufficiently to protect patient identity data. Hence, identity verification is an important step in the patient onboarding process and before doctors consult the patient to prescribe medication. Some of the ways identity verification can help telemedicine be more effective are:

Make the correct diagnosis

Let’s say a patient reaches out to a doctor with pain from a back injury. If the patient’s identity hasn’t been verified, the doctor may not have access to all his medical records. Hence, the doctor may prescribe penicillin without knowing that the patient is allergic to it. Identity verification ensures that all patient medical records are properly maintained thus helping doctors make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the right medicine.

Keep drugs from being misused

Fraudsters often target telehealthcare service providers to source drugs illegally. Recent data showed that 14.3 million people misused prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in 2021. Verifying identities during the patient onboarding process ensures that every patient being prescribed drugs is who he/ she claims to be. This minimizes the risk of prescription drugs being misused and helps fight prescription drug addiction.

Minimize data breaches

Onboarding unverified patients could increase the risk of your database being breached by fraudsters. The Managed Care of North America (MCNA Dental) data breach in 2023 affected 8,923,662 individuals. Healthcare hacking incidents have unfortunately been increasing year by year. Once breached, cybercriminals may steal other patient’s medical identities and sell them on the black market.

Minimize exposure to penalties

Patient data breaches not only affect the patients whose identities have been stolen but also the healthcare facilities where these data breach incidents occur. When personal health information was impermissibly disclosed from the BetterHelp Inc. database to third parties such as Google and Facebook the organization paid $7,800,000 as a settlement. Verifying patient identities helps protect databases from such instances.

Better patient record management

Verifying patient identities helps reduce the chances of a patient having multiple records with fractured information. Ongoing data quality checks help identify and merge duplicate records to ensure that doctors get complete information about their patients. This can help reduce duplicate testing and help doctors provide better care.

Common mistakes to avoid with identity verification

Telemedicine service providers must be able to verify patient identities quickly but accurately. The stakes are high and hence, here are a few mistakes to avoid when choosing an identity verification system.

Limit coverage

Telemedicine breaks through the barriers of geographic borders. Hence, when choosing an identity verification tool, do not limit yourself to tools covering a single country or region. Make sure the tool you choose has global coverage allowing you to use all government-based identification cards and other reliable databases for identity verification.

Overlooking the user experience

Identity verification is important but it must be structured such that it does not inconvenience the customer. If the tool requires patients to do too many things, they may be put off from the process and turn to competitors. Hence, look closely at the user experience provided by the tool. Look for tools without too many steps, automated processes and quick, real-time results.

Mobile incompatibility

Telemedicine is all about accessibility. Hence, identity verification tools must also focus on accessibility. This means the tools must work on identifying patients through an interface on laptops and desktops as well as Android and iOS mobile devices.

Final Thoughts

With technology making inroads in the field of medicine and doctors finding ways to reach out to patients in remote areas, the need for patient identity verification is higher now than ever before. Verifying patient identities helps ensure that doctors get a better view of the patient profile and can make a quicker, more accurate diagnosis. It helps comply with global, healthcare regulations and protect the healthcare institute from penalties. The good news is that modern identity verification tools can be easily integrated with patient onboarding platforms and healthcare databases. The process can be automated to a large extent and provides quick, real-time results for a seamless patient experience.

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