The healthcare industry and health systems are rapidly changing in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and medical practitioners are moving to Telehealth as a result.
What is Telehealth? Telehealth, in short, can be defined as using videoconferencing and other remote technologies to deliver health care, health education, and health information services.
Telehealth and telemedicine allow practitioners to serve patients through virtual visits. Not only is it more convenient, but during difficult times, it is necessary to serve the public.
Some of The Key Benefits of Telehealth Include:
- Reaching more patients
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Increasing revenue while slashing costs
- And much more
With all the benefits it has to offer, telehealth security presents challenges that can seriously impact its use. It’s essential to take all the necessary steps to provide both security and telehealth services while being compliant with HIPAA’s high standard of security.
4 Telehealth Software Risks and Challenges
What are some of the security concerns telehealth users face? These include:
1. Privacy And Security Of Patient Data
HIPAA compliance requires health care providers to safeguard the security of patients’ personal healthcare information (PHI). They must also notify patients if the security of their data is compromised.
One study found that 1,461 data breaches involving the healthcare records of almost 170 million people occurred in the U.S. over a recent 10-year period.
Communication devices and methods must be kept secure to prevent PHI data from being captured by hackers or other malicious actors. Telehealth privacy security is essential to protecting the privacy and security of patient data.
2. Risks Caused By Unsecured Transmission of Patient Data
In the telemedicine world, PHI and other patient data may be transmitted over devices that are not subject to the security protocols established by a medical practice, increasing the security risks of telemedicine.
Unsecured transmissions of this type are not conducive to telehealth security and privacy. For instance, if a patient’s medication data was not transmitted securely, it might be intercepted by hackers who could attempt to use it for malicious purposes.
Due to such risks, privacy and security concerns in telehealth must be actively addressed.
3. Computers And Systems Might Not Be Secure or Private
Some of the systems and computers used within the telehealth processes may not be equipped with the proper security safeguards to ensure protected health information.
And in the current times, with many people working at home, some of the software used may be at risk of malware due to unsecured links between different communication technologies. Telemedicine security risks are a result of that.
Unsecured computers, whether at home or at a medical facility, are subject to being compromised by hackers. Some hospitals have been subject to ransomware attacks by cyber-criminals who infiltrate their IT systems and hold their sensitive data hostage.
4. Medical Devices Used For Telehealth Applications May Not Be Secure
Medical devices, such as heart monitors, glucose monitors, insulin pumps, etc. may not be equipped with the same security features as the computers used in telemedicine, presenting telehealth cybersecurity risks such as the theft of patient data.
These devices can in many cases be monitored over the web, however, if proper security precautions are not taken, this data is subject to being captured by hackers, either as it is transmitted or by accessing data stored on a device.
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Telemedicine Security Solutions
While the challenges posed by telehealth security issues can seem formidable, they are not without solutions. To provide telehealth and health information security, it is crucial that medical offices work with experts who can provide them with solutions that enable them to operate securely.
The cost of cybersecurity programs for telehealth services is well worth it when considering the damage that can be done if a security breach were to occur.
Here are a few security measures that can help you address telemedicine privacy and security issues:
1. Use Secure Solutions, Partner With Cybersecurity Experts, & Conduct Employee Training And System Reviews
How can security of patient information be enhanced through telehealth? Make sure you have access to all the latest telemedicine cybersecurity features and acquire security telehealth solutions that provide HIPAA compliant systems.
Additionally, to maximize privacy and security, telehealth requires you to verify that your IT platform has the features necessary to help mitigate the security risk of telemedicine.
This includes implementing multi-factor authentication to minimize the chances that a stolen password alone can result in a security breach.
Any telemedicine cybersecurity consultants you work with, such as TrueNorth, should offer employee training to ensure that all members of your team understand how to securely use your telehealth system.
They should also perform a comprehensive system review to verify that your telehealth system has been optimized for cybersecurity protection.
2. Ensure Endpoints Are Secure
Endpoints include laptops, tablets and smartphones as well as your office computers. Especially when used at home via telecommuting, these devices can present security risks.
In the interest of telehealth privacy and security, secure these devices using telehealth security data encryption for all data transfers, especially when it involves PHI.
3. Verify HIPAA Compliance
To ensure compliance, work with applications and vendors that have received independent validation of HIPAA compliance.
You can also look for mobile app notification HIPAA telehealth security platforms that enable you to closely monitor any issues that arise.
4. Utilize High-Performance Technology
The need to support video conferencing to communicate with patients is fundamental to telehealth applications. As a result, it is important to acquire technology that enables your practitioners to conduct telehealth sessions without interruptions due to underpowered or poorly integrated technology.
Look for options to customize applications to fit the specific needs of your practice and improve your telemedicine platform’s ability to deliver a seamless user experience. Telehealth security mobile access is also a plus to look for when evaluating platforms.
5. Establish Cybersecurity Guidelines To Protect PHI
To protect PHI as required by HIPAA, it is imperative to set up policies and organize training to neutralize telemedicine security threats. This is especially important with regard to devices that handle PHI offsite, for instance when staff members telecommute.
To maximize PHI security, implement multi-factor authentication to minimize the chances that a stolen password alone can result in a security breach.
The Bottom Line
PHI breaches are often caused by lost or stolen computing equipment and employee or third-party errors, or some combination of both.
The initiatives outlined above offer telehealth security measures that you can use to properly secure PHI and enable your practice and its patients to benefit from integrating telemedicine and cybersecurity into your operations.
Telehealth offers a number of benefits to medical practices and patients. While there are security risks involved, if you work with experts, those risks have solutions that can minimize them so they don’t pose a threat to your clinic.
TrueNorth offers comprehensive telemedicine services including cybersecurity defence. We can help you select, set up, manage and secure your telehealth services against cyber-attacks so that you can reap the many benefits the practice provides without compromising the security of your patient’s data.