Ticking Time Bomb – Pediatric Protected Health Information

Electronic theft through hacking is rampant and growing. But the 2015 Anthem breach is by far the largest and possibly the most damaging theft of protected health information that we know of to date. The youngest patients had the most to lose and may not learn about the cost for years.

The names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of almost 80 million people were stolen. And the most valuable data stolen belonged to minors because the Social Security numbers are “pristine” and can be used without detection far longer at greater loss than adults’ information. A child’s Social Security number can be used to apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live.

The tricky part is that the damage may not show up until years later when the minor becomes an adult, or applies for credit for the first time, only to find out they have no credit. Anthem provided two years of credit monitoring from a service called All Clear ID (and All Clear Pro), but this is not enough to monitor the misuse of pristine, as yet unused Social Security numbers, years in the future. There are three national credit monitoring organizations that can help: Experian, Equifax and Transunion, and good information can be found at the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft

The loss of private information is preventable. Patients trust. Health care providers and their business associates can take steps to maintain that trust. This basic professional responsibility can be shouldered with complete HIPAA policies like ones in The HIPAA E-Tool®. You take control with easy to follow, up to date policies, training and procedures, and your patients will be protected.