Medical ID Thefts Increase, Lack Of Transparency Still Plagues Hospital Safety Data Reporting

BusinessWeek/Bloomberg: "There were more than 275,000 cases in the U.S. last year of medical information theft, twice the number in 2008, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a Pleasanton, California-based market research firm. The average fraud cost $12,100, Javelin said. ... Criminals set up fake clinics to bill for phony treatments, said Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum, a non-profit consumer-research group based in San Diego, California, which has worked with more than 3,000 victims. Thieves also may impersonate a patient" (Collins, 3/23).

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "A nationwide Hearst Newspapers investigation found that state and federal governments collect a treasure trove of [hospital] safety information, but the public can't see it … Even after years of clamor for reform, the data-collection system is a mess and governments hide key information from researchers."

Even hospital rankings that are widely used by consumers to choose hospitals aren't a good indicator of an institution's safety record. "U.S. News and World Report rankings use opinion surveys and outcomes. However, the data on patient safety performance, used for the first time in 2009, accounted for only 5 percent of the score. ... President Barack Obama has earmarked $17 billion to help hospitals buy new electronic medical records systems, something that would provide more robust data. But the proposed regulation will not allow that data to be used to publicly report errors at specific hospitals" (Nalder and Crowley, 3/22).

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