Report finds increasing rate of medical identity theft

Incidents of medical identity theft increased by more than 20 percent in fiscal year 2014 compared to the year prior, according to a recently released survey by the Ponemon Institute.

The organization surveyed more than 49,000 U.S. adults for the study and found that data theft is costly for consumers, complicated and time-consuming to resolve. It also can negatively impact a patient's reputation.

Researchers found that 79 percent of respondents said it is importnat for healthcare providers to ensure the privacy of their health records. However, 68 percent said they are not confident in their healthcare providers' security measures.

Almost half (48 percent) said they would change providers if their records were lost or stolen while 52 percent said they were not sure what action they would take. 

In the event of a theft, 80 percent said being reimbursed for "money spent to prevent future damages" is the most important step.

Just over one-third (35 percent) of those who had medical information compromised said their benefits were used by the hacker and causing a valid insurance claim to be denied.

Thirty-five percent said they were not famiiar with HIPAA and privacy standards and another 34 percent said they had never heard of them.

While medical identity theft cannot be completely prevented, the report offers several steps providers and consumers can take to slow the rate of incidence.