Keeping up with healthy online practices

We all know it’s unwise to post credit card and Social Security numbers online, but there’s another set of personal details you can’t forget to protect: your health information.

It’s now easier than ever for individuals and corporations to gain access to your health information online -- and that can open the door to medical identity theft and other dangers. If a cyber thief gets ahold of your full name or health insurance numbers, they can use them to see a doctor, get prescriptions, and file claims with your insurance provider.

The good news is federal regulations safeguard the privacy of protected health information (PHI) held by your health care insurers and providers. But if you keep health information on your personal computer or mobile device, send emails about it, or participate in health-related online forums, there are a few things you should do to protect your health details:

Store your information carefully. Any electronic health records you have should be encrypted and stored in a password-protected external hard drive. Be wary of cloud-based storage sites, because most of these sites cannot guarantee the security of your information. 

Be smart on email. Phishing scams, which are often emails meant to trick you into handing over your sensitive information, are just one way cyber thieves can get away with your health particulars. Don’t click on emails you don’t recognize and don’t provide personal information if you can’t verify that the source is legitimate.

Proceed with caution on online health forums. Online health communities and forums can be useful places to ask medical questions, but think carefully before you share your full name or other personal information: what you post is not protected by federal regulations. Apply the same caution to information you input in wearable devices like Fitbits and mobile apps.

If you’re worried about the safety of your health information, be sure to monitor all your health-related email and records, keeping an eye on any communications from your health care provider and insurance company. For more tips to help you protect and secure your health information online, visit

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