Over a brief period in early 2020, telehealth went from a nice idea to an absolute necessity, accelerated in acceptance by a global pandemic that necessitated measures most of us had never seen in our lifetimes. After proving itself in that high-pressure situation, telehealth is now here to stay, forever a part of our care curriculum. Many, though, question what this means for practices considering the substantial cybersecurity risks facing all industries, but healthcare in particular. Let’s examine what practices should be aware of as they think about telehealth and cybersecurity.
How Telehealth Affects Vulnerability
The same connectivity that allows for virtual patient care, can also provide opportunities for bad actors. This, paired with the reality that not all platforms meet HIPAA standards or provide adequate safeguards for data, can increase the level of risk related to cyber-attacks. Cyber-criminals can exploit vulnerabilities in hardware and use malware to take systems offline, halting the transfer of information and delaying patient care. This puts patient safety at risk. With this in mind, it’s of the utmost importance that practices ensure their cybersecurity measures are robust enough to protect this important new means of providing care.
Security Considerations to Lower Risk
There’s no reason for a potential cybersecurity risk to make you reconsider offering telehealth, as this is an important program to have in place to meet patients’ needs. Instead, focus on implementing adequate security measures to guard against cyber-criminals’ activity. First, consider device security. Obviously, providers can be confident in the security of their own devices, but patients may not have the same level of protection on their equipment. This can be problematic as it’s possible for a provider’s device to be accessed through a patient’s under-protected device when the two are connected. To ensure protection, providers should install firewalls and intrusion detection systems on all telehealth equipment.
Data encryption, another item to consider, is necessary to safeguard patient information and can be accomplished at three points. The first is at rest, so that if an attacker gets past access controls to stored data, it will be meaningless to them. The next point is in transit, so that data is meaningless if a bad actor intercepts a transmission. Finally, is end-to-end encryption, where data is only ever available at two end points and nowhere in between.
Finally, consider access security and authentication. Providers must be able to identify the patient they are seeing to make sure there is no unauthorized access to patient information. Usually this would be done by verifying the patient’s name and date of birth, but someone who has previously accessed a patient’s account would be able to view that information. It’s important to use secure logins and multi-factor authentication to make sure only authorized individuals can access information.
While telehealth may increase cybersecurity risk due to the higher level of connectivity that is involved, this doesn’t mean that it’s too risky or should be abandoned. Rather, practices need to consider their cybersecurity precautions and make sure that they are taking extreme care to protect data on their end.
The importance of safely providing telehealth services is why MicroMD is happy to offer solutions for both telehealth and cybersecurity. Medpod helps practices to transform patient care by eliminating barriers while also increasing patient volume and expanding reimbursement possibilities. Because security matters, Medpod features 256-bit encryption to ensure your patient and provider information is protected. Medical Guardian, powered by Data Guardian Pros is the first comprehensive information security and regulatory compliance solution created for medical providers, by medical and information security professionals and privacy experts. Finally, ensure your data is safe with MicroMD eBackUp, powered by Asigra. This cloud-based data backup service that establishes automated backup and retention and works with you to restore your data quickly if an issue arises.
For more information or to get started implementing any of these services in your practice, visit micromd.com or call 1-800-624-8832.
About the author,
Crystal is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. Content creation, social media management, and SEO optimization are just a few of her areas of concentration as she seeks to educate clients and prospects alike about the simple, customizable, and connected solutions we offer at MicroMD.
Looking for PM or EMR Software?
MicroMD PM and EMR/EHR is flexible and can fit almost any specialty. Let us help you get back to the business of healing.