During the past few years, telemedicine has expanded significantly. There are a lot of people who enjoy the ability to visit a doctor remotely. A lot of people do not want to expose themselves to other people in the waiting room. Some people are concerned about patient privacy when they go to the doctor’s office and spend time in the waiting room. At the same time, remote patient care comes with its own risks. All telehealth and telemedicine providers need to think about cybersecurity provisions. What do they need to know about, and what are some of the best practices they need to follow?
Cybercrime Is On the Rise
Because telehealth has become more popular, it has also become a popular target among hackers. Because this is a visit that is conducted digitally, patients need to submit their personal health information using the internet. This could include their financial information, which is a popular target for hackers and cybercriminals. Unfortunately, cybercrime attacks executed on telemedicine providers have risen significantly during the past few years. In the wake of the pandemic, where numerous other industries also went to remote care, attacks executed on telehealth providers skyrocketed. Because it seems like telemedicine is here to stay, expect to see hackers and cybercriminals targeting remote healthcare providers even more often. That is why it is important for medical providers to take steps to protect themselves.
HIPAA Still Applies To Telemedicine
Even though patient care might be handled remotely, HIPAA regulations still apply. It is important for everyone to make sure they use a platform that is HIPAA compliant. Some of the most important points that healthcare organizations need to keep in mind include:
- Only authorized users should have access to electronic protected health information, typically called ePHI.
- There must be a secure communication system in place. That means that communications that take place digitally between patients and providers must be protected accordingly. This means that email, Skype, and SMS should not be used for communicating PHI at a distance.
- There should also be an audit system in place. That means that there should be records of who is accessing what documents and when. There should also be a system in place that automatically logs off the computer when it has been left idle for a few minutes.
Following these guidelines is important for making sure providers adequately protect patient information. This can also shield organizations from potential regulatory sanctions.
Tips for Improving Telehealth and Telemedicine Cybersecurity
There are several tips that all medical providers need to follow if they are providing care remotely. Some of the most important tips include:
1. Limit Access to the Network
First, medical providers must limit access to the network. This means that not everyone needs to have access to everything. Instead, they need to take advantage of granular permissions. This means that people should only have access to the documents they require to do their jobs. This is not reflective of a lack of trust. Instead, it simply means that if someone steals their log-in credentials, they don’t get access to everything. They only get access to a few documents.
2. Encrypt Information
Typically, information is encrypted at its origin and destination. It is not necessarily encrypted in transit. With telemedicine, there are a lot of confidential documents passing back and forth. Invest in a network solution that will make sure that your documents are encrypted from start to finish.
3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Telemedicine providers should also take advantage of multi-factor authentication. What this means is that it should take more than a simple username and password combination to access files. Instead, there should be a second factor in place. For example, a set of login credentials should be paired with a text message verification code. That way, if someone steals a username and password, they do not have access to the network.
4. Audit All Documents Regularly
Finally, it is helpful to audit all documents regularly. That means the medical professionals need to take a close look at the documents from time to time and see who is accessing them. If there is unauthorized access taking place, this has to be investigated. By auditing documents from time to time, it is possible to catch hackers before they can cause serious damage.
Related article: 15 Tips for Creating a HIPAA-Compliant Home Office.
Rely on PatientCalls for Help With Telemedicine and Telehealth
Even though telehealth is a field that is primed to grow during the next few years, it is important to make sure that all confidential information is protected. We are PatientCalls, and we provide a variety of administrative services for doctors’ offices. It would be our pleasure to work with you as well. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your telemedicine solution.