We as humans have an innate nature to be helpful. When it comes to providing information about ourselves, we usually do so without thinking twice, especially when the request comes from someone we trust like a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider. However, providing this personal information, such as your Social Security Number (SSN), can increase the likelihood your personal information or identity are stolen.
Healthcare records contain valuable data, such as SSNs, addresses, prescriptions, and medical histories. While financial data is only good until the customer or financial institution discovers the fraud and cancels the account or card, healthcare records have a much longer lifespan since they contain information about our past, present, and future. It’s no wonder hackers want to get their hands on it, and attacks to healthcare data, especially ransomware attacks, are rapidly rising. Given the major rise in healthcare information breaches, now more than ever we need to be vigilant when providing our personal information.
When it comes to completing forms for a healthcare provider, be mindful of the information you provide. For example, most health care providers do not need information like your SSN. Most of the forms we complete for health care providers are generic and request more information than is needed. Primarily so the health care provider can find you if you skip out on your bill. If the provider refuses to see you for not providing the information, make a risk based decision to provide the information you feel comfortable with and remember there are other providers available. For example, when it comes to providing your SSN, you can choose to leave the field blank and if your provider asks, explain your concern for identity theft. Some people just provide the last four digits.
While healthcare providers have a responsibility to implement protections to secure healthcare information, we as patients need to also take responsibility to know what information we are providing and the consequences of that information falling into the wrong hands.