Telehealth is more popular than ever and it is helping connect patients with healthcare services and providers like never before, no matter where they live and what services they were traditionally left out of from living in an underserved community. But sadly, hackers and cyber security threats are also more popular and smarter than ever before. So, if you are going to add telehealth services to your medical arsenal, there are a few things you need to know about cyber and privacy issues first.
Cyber exposure in healthcare
Unfortunately, hackers know that healthcare providers have a ton of sensitive data within their networks. This is why they are often the targets of cyber attacks and data breaches. These cyber issues with telehealth cause many concerns for providers who are practicing remotely
In a traditional face-to-face setting, paper health records are used and things can be written down instead of typed and entered electronically. Providers see the patient in a private room and records are locked away securely. However, as more and more practices move to electronic record keeping and the use of telehealth devices, it is a lot more challenging to keep the information secure.
With the internet, there are many ways to break in to electronic systems and get access to a large volume of protected health information. Healthcare data breaches recorded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights show that more than 189 million health records were stolen or exposed between 2009 and 2018. Telehealth devices present notable challenges when it comes to securing patient protected health information and complying with HIPAA.
Not all devices used by providers via telehealth are adequately protected which causes many cyber issues with telehealth. Especially during COVID-19 when a lot of providers are being thrown into telemedicine and due to the pandemic, some of the HIPAA restrictions for telemedicine have been loosened. Even if the provider’s device is secure, the patient’s may not be. Data may be accessed by a hacker through a patient’s device, it’s not only the providers who are vulnerable.
Another security concern in telehealth is verifying the body that is on the other side of a telehealth appointment. Traditional doctor’s visits are able to confirm a patient’s name, birthday and other information as many times as they feel necessary. In telemedicine, that becomes a lot bigger of a hurdle.
Securing the network
In order to adequately secure telehealth devices, healthcare organizations are recommended to install technical safeguards like firewalls and intrusion detection systems on all provider-owned telemedicine devices. To decrease the occurrences of inappropriate access to a healthcare server, record or appointment it’s a good idea to provide secure logins for the patient and provider. Use multi-level authentication and require security questions.
Telehealth services receive a ton of data. From photos of patients to their vital health information being gathered by a wearable device and basic personal information, the data collected is insurmountable. It is vital that healthcare providers and organizations safeguard this data to minimize cyber issues with telehealth. Data encryption can help you do just that. When data is encrypted in a complex way, the data that the hacker accesses will be meaningless.
You can also protect the information stored in your database by using authentication and access control mechanisms. These are meant to restrict access to information based on the person accessing the device or data’s identity. Knowledge-based authentication will require a PIN or password in order to gain access to the device or information before every single use. For the more technologically advanced, there is biometric authentication. This typically uses a fingerprint before a user is allowed entry. So, even if a hacker breaks the password, it is extremely unlikely they will be able to break the biometrics because they are completely personalized.
The next cyber issues with telehealth are the people that operate the devices. In order for telemedicine to be secure, the business that operates it must also be secure. For this reason, it is recommended that healthcare providers distribute telehealth software and devices face-to-face to their patients to ensure that they are being given to whomever they are intended for and not a dangerous third party.
Insurance to manage cyber issues with telehealth
As we see more cyber threats and hospitals facing stiff fines for data breaches, we are seeing more organizations turn to cyber insurance. The harsh reality is that cyber attacks happen frequently to healthcare organizations and that will likely continue to happen for the simple fact that healthcare organizations harbor so much of that precious patient data the hackers crave. Even though the healthcare industry invests substantially in cybersecurity resources, they are still extremely vulnerable, according to a 2017 Healthcare Cybersecurity Industry Taskforce Report to Congress.
The industry is also seeing more litigation about excluded liability. Virtually every cyber-insurance policy covers the cost to notify affected people and the cost of a lawyer in the event of a data breach. As cyberthreats change and evolve, so is the cyber insurance market. How will patients receive care if a computer system is inoperable due to an attack? Bodily injuries from a cyber attack is a disturbing reality as more people wear medical devices that are connected to the internet.
A cyber insurance policy could be a healthcare organization’s best bet when it comes to mitigating the financial impact of a cyber attack. In fact, cyber insurance policies cover losses and damages that result from patient data being stolen, exposed, held for ransom or improperly shared. It also covers the deliberate actions, like hacking, as well as accidents, like a lost laptop. A comprehensive policy will cover paper records too. Cyber insurance can help providers deal with the consequences of data breaches.
Explore our courses to learn more about cyber issues with telehealth. Learn about best practices with compliance as well as other topics so that you can practice remotely, confidently.