Home > 2011 > Identity Theft

If You’re Worried About Medical Privacy, Better Take Some Xanax

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

It was announced recently that nearly 5,000,000 patient records of military personnel were stolen. There was no elaborate hacking, and no technical skill was required on the part of the thieves—some tapes containing these records were stolen from a car belonging to an employee of SAIC who was prosaically transporting them between federal facilities in San Antonio Texas. The data included not only sensitive medical information, including prescription records, but also the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of victims.

Since September 2009, around the world, about 15 million patient records have been purloined, “mislaid,” or otherwise compromised. Most famously, Stanford University Hospital recently announced that the medical records of approximately 20,000 emergency room patients had been posted on a public website for nearly a year. Within a few weeks of that announcement, a class action was filed under the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act which, like many other state and federal statutes here and abroad, requires safeguards to ensure the privacy of such information. In answering the suit, Stanford illustrated just how many people have access to that sensitive data in the ordinary course of business. Stanford said the information had been securely transmitted to a data collection service; that the collection service had transmitted the data to a graphics company in order to prepare a visual presentation based on the data; and that an employee of the graphics company had improperly posted the information on a website—a breach which managed to go undetected for at least a year. Stanford says it acted appropriately, and intends to defend itself against the lawsuit.

[Related Article: Data Breach Hits 5 Million Soldiers, Family Members]

However, even if your data does not get posted on a public website, lots of people can see just how much Xanax you’ve been taking.

In the United States there is currently a major push to digitize all patient records. Similar efforts were undertaken some years ago in the UK and in Australia. About $45 billion of stimulus money was allocated to the effort, accompanied by a persuasive case delineating its benefits: the instant availability of information to doctors, which might well save lives; the elimination of many forests worth of paper records; the ultimate promise of very substantial cost savings; an unprecedented clarity of the information itself (in other words, who could read a doctor’s handwriting anyway?); and best of all, given the state of the economy, the creation of over 200,000 jobs.

[Resource: Get your free Credit Report Card]

In an ideal world, one could hardly argue with the benefits of digitization. The problem is that the world is a somewhat less than ideal place.

What is happening in the United States and elsewhere is that the good news of easy access to information is running way ahead of the bad news relating to the loss of privacy about that information. Time and again it is demonstrated that corporate and government attitudes about sensitive personal information relating to individuals are, shall we say, a tad nonchalant. Details about the SAIC breach are scarce, but it sure sounds like somebody just left the tapes in an empty car all day in a public parking lot somewhere. SAIC’s spokesman made an astute observation in the San Antonio Express-News that if the tapes hadn’t been left in the car to begin with, they couldn’t have been stolen.

[Featured Product: Need credit monitoring options?]

If You’re Worried About Medical Privacy… (cont.) »

Image: Virginia Guard Public Affairs, via Flickr.com

Pages: 1 2

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team