Identity Verification in The Healthcare Industry
Melissa IN Team | |
Technology has made inroads in every section of health care. Wearable smart devices track your heart rate, oxygen levels, etc. Gone are bulky files- patient health records are maintained electronically and made available not just to doctors on their computers but on smartphone apps too. Doctors are even using technology to make a remote diagnosis. Then there are robotic surgeries and the use of Artificial Intelligence to personalize patient care. All of this is great but it comes at the price of one big risk – poor data quality. This is where identity verification comes in. Doctors, hospitals and healthcare organizations must be able to trust that a patient is who he/ she claims to be.
Healthcare Issues that could arise from poor quality data
Given the reliance on data and technology in the healthcare industry, maintaining high data quality standards is critical. 2 main issues could arise from mismanaged data.
- Danger to a Patient’s Health
Let’s say a person gave a doctor the wrong patient ID – test results may get mixed up – the patient may be misdiagnosed and a simple issue may turn serious. Or, let’s say a patient’s medical records are saved as ‘J. Smith’ but the name on his surgical file is ‘John Smith’ – imagine what would happen if he got the wrong medicine…
People who are dependent on devices like pacemakers or insulin pumps are also at risk of having their devices hacked into if appropriate security measures are not put in place. At a security conference back in 2011, ethical hackers demonstrated how they could take control of insulin pumps and deliver lethal doses or send a shock through a patient’s pacemaker.
- Fraud and Identity Theft
Many fraudsters also try to hack into databases and steal identities. After all, when a patient registers himself/ herself at a hospital, they give the hospital their name, address, phone number, email address and even their social security number and insurance details. In 2020, the Florida Orthopaedic Institute was hacked and 640,000 patient data files were affected.
Why do fraudsters target the healthcare industry?
When medical innovators were designing implantable drug pumps, all they wanted to do was find a way to dispense the right amount of medication at prescribed time intervals. Similarly, a patient management system was designed basically to manage patient files. They weren’t worried about data security. Thus, they are potential access points for cyber hackers. A study showed that 93% of organizations in the healthcare sector faced a data breach in the last three years.
Another reason fraudsters target the healthcare industry is because private medical data is worth a lot of money to cyberattackers. Healthcare facilities have an immense amount of data about patients. Medical records contain everything from patient names and addresses to their financial information.
The role of identity verification in the healthcare industry
The need for hospitals to hold patient data is undeniable. This information must also be stored in such a way that it can be accessed by all parties involved and be shared whenever needed. Thus, there is a clear need for a robust identity verification system.
- It protects patient records
Verifying a user’s identity every time they try to access patient records ensures that they are accessed by the right person. Authenticating patient identities makes sure that confidential data isn’t accessed by an unauthorized person. Did you know that drug companies buy data about what patients were prescribed by US physicians to tailor their sales pitches?
- It aids in patient data management
Part of verifying identities is minimizing the risk of duplicating patient records. A patient may have given her name as ‘Betty Jones’ when registering at the hospital but given her name as ‘Betty’ at the pharmacy. Identity verification at both points will show that the two names belong to the same person. Thus, every patient will have a single golden record with all their information. Everyone accesses the same file and hence the chances of making an error in patient care are minimized.
- It helps healthcare organizations comply with data regulations
Any company in the USA that collects and stores data must comply with regulations such as HITECH and HIPAA to verify patient identity. If the organization doesn’t comply with these regulations, it may be subject to heavy fines and blacklisted in the industry. Identity verification is an important step in complying with data regulations.
To maintain a consistently high data quality standard, patient identities must be verified when data is collected as well as at regular intervals for as long as it is stored in the database. Doing so is easy when you have the right tools. The ideal identity verification API can verify names, phone numbers, addresses and email IDs against reliable third-party databases so that only accurate and complete data enters your database.