Monday, June 1, 2009

Security - At Your Doctor's Office

Having some recent experiences with medical offices I've stumbled across something everyone goes through, but probably never thinks of.  Doctor's offices require your social security number (SSN) ... and often times much more information without actually needing that information.

To demonstrate this, I went through the typical doctor's office paperwork craziness, and conveniently left off my SSN.  I finished my information including name, address, consent signature and all that, just left off my social security number.

Guess what... no one noticed!  The doctor's office was able to process my medical insurance, bill them, and finish their end of paperwork without actually needing the SSN they required on the forms.  I can't say I was shocked... as I often see information being asked for that no one can explain except to say "Well, we need it for our records".

What I recommend to you, my readers, is the next time you're at your doctor's office filling out one of those forms... skip the SSN.  See if anyone notices.  If they ask you why you skipped it- question them and ask them specifically what the SSN is required for.  Don't take lame "we need it for billing" as an answer.


Bil Corry said...

Most likely it's used for collections when you fail to pay your bill. I do know I have to provide my wife's SSN and birthdate since our insurance is under her name, I just assumed it's needed for billing, but I've never challenged it.

Information Amplifier said...

This *is* a crock. My wife spent years in the medical front desk role and in pharma sales, and she will rabidly jump on the front desk personnel if they try to demand the SSN. It is not required, and is not necessary. If they have your insurance card number and such, then they can get paid, no problems.

Unless of course your insurance company is so lame as to still use your SSN as your account/member number. That issue you can get changed later with a simple request for a proper member number and possibly a nasty yet instructive letter.

In the meantime, you tell the front desk they do not need the SSN and they are not getting it. They are just trying to fill in blanks, and will get out of the way when pressed. The front desk manager can tell them to give you an exception without fail.

The real thing to be concerned with is the fat tablet of blank forms they ask everyone to fill out in the waiting room. The indentations from the prior patient's pen should expose all of their PII to you with the old school tricks of lead pencil shading, et al. Take your blank form out of that stack and fill it out on a hard surface instead such as the back of the clipboard. Do not just use the copy of Cosmo sitting next to you, or you just repeated the same sin.