Anthem Just Got Hacked. This Is What You Need to Do to Protect Your Identity.
The second largest health insurer in the United States, Anthem Inc., has disclosed that it has been the latest victim of a massive hack. Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and more was retrieved from databases that stored information for tens of millions of Americans.
Anthem didn’t specify how many consumer records may have been breached, but it did say that all of the company’s business units were affected.
By looking at the figures from Anthem’s website, however, we can estimate how big this breach could be: “With nearly 69 million people served by its affiliated companies including more than 37 million enrolled in its family of health plans, Anthem is one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies.”
The company said it is conducting an extensive IT forensic investigation alongside the FBI to determine what members are impacted.
“We are working around the clock to determine how many people have been impacted and will notify all Anthem members who are impacted through a written communication,” the company stated in a question and answer page regarding the breach.
While there is currently no evidence that financial or medical information was compromised, the information that was breached is enough to commit identity theft or bypass questions to lock you out of existing accounts. And the risk isn’t short term, an attacker could sit on this information for years before deciding to use it.
The following steps, however, can be taken to protect yourself.
1. Monitor all existing accounts.
Keep an eye out for someone using this stolen information to trick a call center into letting them take over or transfer money out of existing accounts (they can bypass security questions with the last four digits of your SS number or street address). Watch for any unauthorized activity or transfers on your current financial accounts, including 401k or brokerage accounts.
2. Sign up for credit alerts and identity theft protection.
Anthem has pledged to offer free credit monitoring and identity protection services to all affected customers. These services will keep an eye on your reports for known indicators of identity theft and send you alerts, look for changes of address and alert you when someone else tries to use your identity.
But you shouldn’t wait for Anthem to complete its investigation as it could be some time until individuals are informed (especially since members will be notified via mail). It’s better to take action now and sign up for a service on your own to thwart any immediate attempts.
3. Sign up for fraud alerts.
A fraud alert cautions lenders and others to take special care to ensure your identity before issuing new credit. Contact each of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Transunion and Equifax – and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your file. That will stay on your report for 90 days.
A more extreme measure is a credit freeze, which will stop any kind of credit being extended at all. This means that besides stopping criminals, however, that you won’t be able to issue a credit card, including in-store ones, or get a loan without notifying the three bureaus first.
4. File your taxes early.
It only takes two pieces of information for a hacker to steal your tax refund by filing your taxes early and claiming it for themselves (the data in the breach contained both). So file as early as possible to avoid any problems.
5. Stay vigilant.
Lastly, but probably the most important tip, is to stay vigilant. Your Social Security number is not going to change. One tip to avoid fallout from criminals using the stolen personal information is to never use personally identifiable information as answers to your "secret questions" on your online accounts, said Dwayne Melancon, CTO of Tripwire, a security software company.
"Make up your own questions and answers, or use answers that are fictitious but memorable to you to prevent criminals from guessing their way into your online accounts," said Melancon.
The issue at hand here isn’t so much the trouble of issuing new health insurance cards, its identity theft. Which is a much more complex and serious issue to be mindful of.
Women leading in healthcare means better patient outcomes
I know I’m pointing out the obvious, but women are different to men. In the context of healthcare—a woman’s physiology, symptoms and sometimes even treatment options are different from a man's. We have witnessed this in cardiovascular health, where there is ample research and evidence that women’s symptoms are often different to men’s. We also know that heart disease is responsible for 1 in 3 deaths in women annually—it is the number one killer.
The fact is women do not always get the treatment they need. A lot of that has to do with who is treating them, how they are being treated by their physicians and the healthcare systems that are designed to support patient needs.
The proof is in the research at the care level; a 2017 study of hospitalised patients over the age of 65, examined differences in outcomes based on the gender of the treating physician. The results of the study concluded that patients treated by female physicians had lower mortality and readmission rates compared with those cared for by male physicians.
Gender equity starts at the top
I believe that gender equity in healthcare starts at the top with the leaders who set expectations around workplace culture, and that trickles down to the workforce.
You might think gender has nothing to do with how patients are treated—a patient is a patient, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, creed, color or gender. But I believe there is a correlation between female leadership in healthcare and better patient outcomes—for men and women. Despite a predominantly female workforce in healthcare (65% of healthcare workers are women), only 13% of healthcare CEOs are women.
The disparity in the number of women in the healthcare C-suite is irrefutable, but I believe the more diversity we have at the boardroom table in hospitals and health systems— and that includes women—the more perspectives we bring to the decisions that ultimately impact patients and their families.
Female healthcare leaders are also caregivers
Many women are still the primary caregivers at home. The responsibility of grocery shopping and meal planning, making doctor and dentist appointments for children and elderly parents, and everything in between still tends to fall to women.
This lived experience gives women the ability to think about innovations and solutions from the perspective of the caregiver—not just the patient. The fact is when someone is sick in the family, it affects the whole family.
As a woman, I often think about solutions and technologies that facilitate holistic healing and health that support the whole family. Bringing the mentality of inclusion to healthcare leadership means programs like the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, will ensure research and treatment for cardiovascular disease in women will get the attention it deserves and ultimately, better outcomes for patients.
The bottom line and meaningful work are equally important
A 2019 study found that public companies with a female CEO were more profitable than their competitors with men at the helm, but that didn’t come at the cost of job fulfillment.
Women who lead companies and organisations can influence their workforce by rallying around a common cause. Having meaningful work and the opportunity to make a difference in the world is powerful motivation that doesn’t have to come at the cost of profitability.
The work we do at Abbott is a good example—I consistently reinforce the good that comes from the research and development of the products we make with my team. Clinical trials, like the current LIFE-BTK trial, is consciously recruiting female principal investigators who work with underserved populations to enroll patients from communities of color and women. Knowing the work we do has a social impact on society might be difficult to quantify, but in my opinion, it’s priceless and could lead to meaningful treatment options that improve patient outcomes in the long-term.
Emotional intelligence and empathy are not soft skills
Interpersonal skills, problem-solving and self-awareness are considered “soft skills”—skills that might not be required to do the job, but in leadership positions, they are no longer “nice to haves,” they are “need to haves” if you are going to inspire high-performing teams.
Research suggests women tend to score higher on social and emotional competencies than men. In the words of Joanne Conroy, the CEO and President of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health in New Hampshire, “Diverse representation at the table changes the conversation. It becomes more collaborative; there is more listening and less interrupting. We have better conversations about how we are functioning as a team and we create a safe space when people can be honest with their feedback to all members of the team, including the leader.”
I’m not suggesting women have a monopoly on soft skills, however having gender diversity around the boardroom table means a diversity of skills. Being aware of your team’s morale and what motivates them is equally important as managing your supply chain.
When it comes to health, we know that patients want more personalised care. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to generate data that is tailored to the health needs of women and ultimately lead to better treatment options and outcomes. But the data insights generated by AI are only as good as the patients’ data available for analysis. To maximize the potential of AI—and meet the expectation of personalised care for patients—healthcare leaders need to be aware of who is and isn’t being included in studies and clinical trials, like women, and telegraph the need for greater inclusion to their teams.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, we have come a long way since Elizabeth Blackwell—the first female physician in the United States—founded New York Presbyterian Hospital. Sure, there is still plenty of work to do, but I do hope my contribution is paving the way for more women to take on leadership roles in healthcare and make a positive impact on lives of all patients and their families.