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Should Patients Be Required to Show Picture IDs?

Whenever I use my credit card, I always keep my driver’s license close at hand because I know I’m going to have to prove that it’s my bill I’m racking up. When stores required their cashiers to check IDs about five years ago, I also remember other customers complaining about this new process. I thought it was a great idea because I knew it was protecting my accounts. Now several hospitals are adopting this same procedure and medical assistants may be required to ask for patient identification.

Cynthia Mccormick of the Cape Cod Times writes about a controversy that has arisen because of this new procedure. When registering for an appointment at her doctor’s office, patient Dianna Morton had her picture taken by a medical assistant without her permission. The camera was linked to her medical record to ensure the patient’s identity and to reduce insurance fraud. “Morton is changing doctors, citing a violation of her privacy rights. She says she was never asked to present a driver’s license and was not given a choice about whether she wanted her photo taken.”

“People’s privacy is really being violated and people are going along with the program without questioning it,” states Morton.

Okay, so I can see both sides of the story here. I would want to give permission for my picture to be taken and I would expect an explanation of why it was being done. I would also be wary of security concerning who has access to these records and how code embedded are they so they won’t be hacked into or stolen. (However, the DMV has our pictures and contact information and I’ve never really given it a second thought.) On the flip side, I totally understand the need for doctors and insurance companies to protect their funds from fraud. It also protects the patient just as if someone stole a credit card.

Mccormick writes that a “Kaiser report says medical identity theft accounts for 1.3 percent to 3 percent of all stolen identity crimes.” However, Pamela Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Foundation in San Francisco comments that medical identity theft is usually an inside job, and the attachment of photos to medical records could make identify theft that much easier to commit.

So should patients show picture IDs and do those getting medical assisting training have a new task at hand? I think that this will be a trend in the future. I don’t know if having a picture attached to medical records is the right answer, but I do think flashing a driver’s license is a good idea.

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