Fortifying EHRs: Safeguarding Against Identity Theft in Electronic Health Records

Fortifying EHRs: Safeguarding Against Identity Theft in Electronic Health Records

Our health records have transitioned from paper-filled folders stacked in the doctor’s office to a few clicks and keystrokes on a computer screen. Electronic Health Records (EHRs), as they are commonly known, have revolutionised healthcare by providing instant access to a patient’s comprehensive medical history.

But, as with every breakthrough, EHRs come with their own set of challenges. Among the chief concerns for patients worldwide is the risk of identity theft, a threat that lurks in the shadows of the digital world.

As we increasingly entrust our sensitive health information to the digital realm, we must be aware of the threats we face and the safeguards in place to protect us. It’s not just about our medical histories anymore – it’s about our identities, our livelihoods, and our peace of mind.

This article will peel back the layers of EHR security, revealing the robust measures in place that guard against identity theft, and what you, as a patient, can do to strengthen those defences.

Understanding EHRs

Think of EHRs as your medical autobiography, providing a real-time, holistic picture of your health journey to clinicians at the click of a button. These medical records are digital versions of our health history, encapsulating a wealth of information right from allergies and medications to doctor’s notes and diagnostic reports.

However, the information goldmine that is your EHR also makes it a magnet for identity thieves. From payment collections to test results, digital bandits understand that your EHR is a trove of personally identifiable information – your full name, date of birth, address, and even your Medicare number. This is information that, if fallen into the wrong hands, could be exploited to commit fraud, drain your finances, or worse, jeopardise your health.

Now, you might wonder, ‘Why do we utilize EHRs despite their susceptibility as potential targets?” The answer is simple. Despite the risk, the benefits offered by EHRs in improving patient care and healthcare efficiency significantly outweigh the dangers. Moreover, the risk isn’t unchecked. Safeguards are robustly built around EHR systems to protect against identity theft, ensuring that your health data remains confidential, accurate, and secure.

To confront identity threats in EHRs, it’s crucial to have additional layers of protection such as identity theft protection software. Services like Aura and Lifelock offer comprehensive protection by monitoring your personal information, alerting you to potential threats, and offering assistance in case of identity theft. Interestingly, Aura offers more insurance coverage and protection than Lifelock, making it a popular choice among users. Not to mention, Aura has industry-leading threat monitoring and alerts.

Risks Involved with EHRs

It’s important to understand the potential threats they face. These threats could be external, like cyberattacks from hackers trying to infiltrate the system, or internal, such as employees within the healthcare organisation misusing their access to sensitive patient data. Phishing scams are another prevalent tactic where attackers trick individuals into revealing confidential information.

Consider a real-world example from 2015, when health insurance giant Anthem experienced a massive breach, exposing the EHRs of nearly 80 million individuals. This breach served as a wake-up call for the healthcare industry, underscoring the necessity of fortifying EHRs against such threats.

Identity theft can have far-reaching impacts on victims. Apart from the financial havoc, it could wreak by leading to fraudulent medical bills; it can also lead to the corruption of your medical records. For instance, if the thief receives treatment under your name, their medical information might be added to your records, leading to potentially catastrophic medical errors in your treatment.

EHR Security Measures

EHR Security Measures

The first line of this digital defence is encryption, a powerful technology that jumbles up your data, transforming it into complex code. This means that even if an attacker manages to get their hands on your EHR, they would be looking at a perplexing puzzle rather than your health information. Decrypting this puzzle, without the specific decryption key, is virtually impossible.

But, what if the culprit is someone authorised to view your records? This is where the second layer of protection, access control, comes into play. EHR systems have stringent access control measures that limit the information that different users can view or modify. Your doctor might have full access to your records, but the receptionist would only be allowed to view certain parts.

The third layer of defence is audit trails. These are essentially digital footprints that every user leaves when they interact with your EHR. In the event of a breach or unauthorised access, these trails help in identifying who accessed the data when they accessed it, and what they did with it.

On top of these technical safeguards, government regulations act as the final layer of protection. In Australia, the Privacy Act 1988 and the Australian Privacy Principles set a high standard for the collection, use, and disclosure of health information, with strict penalties for violations.

Patient-Driven Protection Measures

While healthcare providers and regulatory bodies have a significant role to play in safeguarding your EHRs, you, as a patient, aren’t a passive spectator. There are several steps you can take to add another layer of protection to your health information.

One simple yet effective measure is to regularly update your passwords. Make sure they are strong and unique, combining a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. This makes it harder for cyber attackers to guess your password and gain access to your EHR.

Next, be cautious about whom you share your personal health information with. Before divulging any details, ensure you trust the individual or organisation and that they have a legitimate need to know this information.

In today’s digital world, scams or phishing attempts can be hard to spot. Stay alert for any suspicious emails or messages asking for your personal information or passwords. When in doubt, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider directly.

Lastly, consider using identity theft protection software. As mentioned earlier, services like Aura provide robust protection, monitoring your personal information and alerting you to potential threats. Remember, every extra step you take towards securing your EHRs makes you a tougher target for identity thieves.


Navigating the digital world of EHRs needn’t be daunting. With technology and regulations tirelessly protecting your health data, coupled with your informed vigilance, your EHRs can remain secure. Remember, in safeguarding your health information, your understanding and proactive measures are as vital as the robust protections in place.