The risk of giving personal info to a health provider - FOX 13 News

The risk of giving personal info to a health provider

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

If you've been to a doctor's office, odds are you've given out personal information like a Social Security number during a visit to the staff. It's just as common as getting your blood pressure checked.

But dozens of patients at the Hillsborough County Health Department found out this week that their personal information may have fallen into the wrong hands

The Hillsborough County Health Department announced a breach of client information where an employee printed and stole the personal information of more than 300 clients.

That employee has been fired.

"We want everybody in the community to know that the single person that committed this crime does not represent the rest of us here at the Health department," said Steve Huard, a department spokesman.

Officials with Sarasota Memorial Hospital suspended an employee last month for allegedly stealing the credit card information of a patient who died in their emergency room. These incidents and others like them beg the question, what kind of background checks are being done for employees who take your personal information?

The Hillsborough County Health Department say they have a strict vetting process.

"We have you fingerprinted and then we send that fingerprint and your information, your Social Security and what not to FDLE and to the FBI," Huard said.

Employees also go through information security training. But what if that's not enough for you? Can you go to the doctor without giving personal info at all?

The experts say you can.

"You don't have any legal requirement to give those data to anybody. But by choosing not to, your provider may say ‘I can't provide you with care because I can't get paid unless you want to write a check for me today and independently submit the claim to your insurance company'," said Dr. Jay Wolfson of USF Public Health.

If you don't want to do that, Wolfson say the best course of action is being vigilant.

"You want to know how and where your personal identifying information is going to be maintained and stored. How is the person writing it? Are they putting it in a computer? How safe is that computer? Who are they sharing it with?" Wolfson said.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where the employee allegedly stole the credit card, also has a tough background check, looking at the last five years in all the states an applicant has lived.


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