04/20/09 — Hospital takes aim at identity theft rules

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Hospital takes aim at identity theft rules

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne Memorial Hospital will adopt an identity theft policy by May 1, officials said.

The board of directors recently approved the "Red Flag" rules and training of hospital staff has begun on identity theft as it relates to medical information, said Rebecca Craig, vice president of finance and chief financial officer at the hospital.

"We are educating all of our employees about these rules," she said. "We are required to have policies in place to flag signs that someone's trying to use another person's insurance card, tries to get billing information or medical information without proper identification (or) tries to use another person's identity -- stolen credit card -- without authorization to pay for medical care."

Mrs. Craig explained the policy to the board, which hospitals across the country are required to have to be in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission's identity theft initiative.

The gist of the hospital's new policy is that when employees become aware of suspicious circumstances regarding insurance cards, or other "red flags" that might be raised as a result of a patient complaint or other actions, a supervisor should be alerted, with additional steps taken to minimize risk that someone's identity has been stolen.

Hospitals fall under the rules since they give credit to patients rather than demanding full and immediate payment of hospital bills.

Identity theft is a widespread problem for customers, and is growing in areas such as unauthorized credit card use as well as medical identity theft, Mrs. Craig said. Because Wayne Memorial offers credit, allowing patients to pay bills over time, it is especially subject to the problem, she said.

"People should be concerned that we're protecting their identity ... making sure no one has used their insurance card illegally," she said. "The important thing to realize is that their identity is safe. The hospital is trying to make sure their identity doesn't get in the wrong hands."

With an estimated 10,000 bills sent out by the hospital each month, that equates to 10,000 registrations a month, she said.

The protective measure will be simple.

"When you come into admissions now or ED (emergency department) registration, they're going to scan your I.D.," she said, explaining that will typically be a driver's license or other identification bearing a photo. "The most practical way to identify people will be through picture I.D. The next time you come in, they'll pull it up. If it doesn't show that's you, that's a red flag."

The hospital has not experienced huge problems to speak of, but the fact that identity theft is becoming an increasing problem nationwide warrants the change.

There is essentially no cost to the hospital to introduce the policy, she said, just the additional time involved in conversion.

"Between now and May 1, we will be educating staff. It will become part of net learning, annual training. It's just another regulation for us to follow," Mrs. Craig said.

An "MIT Checklist" for consumers is also available online, she said, at www.myphr.com. Click on "Keep Your Health Information Safe" and scroll down to the "Medical Identity Theft Response Checklist" link.