Saturday, May 08, 2010


This is the second part of a three part series on Medical Identity Theft (MIT). Last week we defined this lethal form of identity theft and outlined its various categories. For the sake of readers who missed the previous article we summed that medical identity theft occurs when someone uses a patient’s name and sometimes other parts of their identity – such as medical insurance information – without the patient’s knowledge or consent.

There are various motives behind MIT. The first one involves the use of a patient’s details to steal their insurance cover. The second one involves the creation of fictitious medical records to circumvent statutory requirements like immigration or employment regulations. The third one involves false and erroneous entries in victim medical files that result in the use of wrong prescriptions and where operations are erroneously conducted.

MIT is not just a crime against a health care system. It is a crime involving theft or abuse of identity information that has financial and other life-consequences for patients. Victims of medical identity theft may receive the wrong medical treatment, find their health insurance exhausted, and could become uninsurable for both life and health insurance coverage. They may also fail physical exams for employment due to the presence of diseases in their health record that do not belong to them.

Among the three categories of MIT, the switching of records or insertion of false entries is the most hazardous one. The possibility of your records being switched and thereby receiving medication or procedures that are totally unrelated to your ailment is a possibility which we should understand.

Hospitals should implement stringent security procedures in their Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems. This is unfortunately not the case in most health institutions. You would be astonished how many people have access to your medical records.

Another common form of MIT involves impersonation. One case involved a patient who impersonated a cousin and gained hospital admittance. He ran up bills running into hundreds of thousands of shillings. This forced hospital administrators to require current picture IDs before admission. In other instances the thief can be your own doctor. There are doctors who defraud patients by billing their health insurance providers for fictitious consultations or treatment.

MIT is a form of cyber crime that has hidden itself very well in Kenya. Victims are often defenseless and at the mercy of bureaucratic red tape from health insurance providers and the pathetic Freedom of Information and Disclosure legislation in Kenya.

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