In April 2004, stolen health records containing sensitive medical information about hundreds of U.S. patients were discovered on a computer server in Malaysia controlled by cyber criminals. The stolen files included names of healthcare providers, medical history summaries, diagnoses, prescriptions, insurance details, and other personal information, such as Social Security Numbers, birth dates, and addresses of the patients.
In July 2010, an unknown virus hit the information system of the Kern Medical Center (KMC). No patient records were stolen, but the online services of KMC were disrupted for three consecutive days, forcing the entire hospital to work on paper and pencil. In May 2009, California regulators fined Kaiser Permanente $250,000 for failing to prevent healthcare workers from accessing the electronic health records (EHR) of a woman who had given birth to octuplets.
Cyber attacks on patients’ Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Health Information Systems (HIS) can lead to severe consequences like patient identity disclosure, embarrassment, privacy violation, and in the worst case, integrity violation resulting in patient’s death. Similar incidents will lead to disastrous consequences on HIS and other telemedicine initiatives.
International Medionet of China (IMNC) network initiative connects 300 hospitals (i.e., 3,000 specialists) to remote patients through telephone lines and the Internet. Emergency Room Link (ER-LINK) in Tucson, Arizona, USA is a telemedicine project that uses mesh wireless technology to improve the management of trauma xv.
While telemedicine offers numerous benefits, it is vulnerable to cyber threats like any other information technology (IT) services. Providers can, however, use a variety of cyber security techniques and best practices to protect their privacy and keep their patients’ data secure.