Thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has become more of a popular and necessary resource for people worldwide.
Telehealth has plenty of benefits, after all. For example, you can have sessions from the privacy of your own home. You can work with doctors anywhere in the country. Plus, you can schedule appointments at a time that works best for you.
But, when it comes to privacy and telehealth, some people have had concerns about their private information or the possibility of data breaches.
Some researchers believe that there are significant security risks in telehealth systems. These risks can impact a patient’s level of trust and willingness to continue using telehealth as a platform.
So, what are the issues, and what is being done to boost security?
Not Making Telehealth Privacy Policies Clear
Privacy and telehealth should be a relatively easy connection. Because it’s still a somewhat new platform that physicians and patients are using, there are still some “kinks” to work out.
A specific suggestion to take the privacy policies out of the hands of healthcare providers would be to let a federal agency (The Federal Trade Commission) create a set of privacy and security standards for all healthcare providers across the country and enforce them when it comes to telehealth.
What Are the Risks of TeleHealth?
Data breaches happen all too frequently in the business and tech world. Telehealth’s popularity is expanding. It’s likely hackers will waste no time in trying to steal valuable information from patients, too. Some of the most serious risks include:
- A lack of control over collecting and sharing data
- Sessions used with apps can share sensitive data
- Home computer systems/networks may not be secure
- Transfer of information increases the risk of a data breach
What Can the Healthcare Sector Do About the Rise in TeleHealth?
The bottom line? When it comes to privacy and telehealth, there should be more government regulations to streamline the process.
In a standard patient/physician setting, HIPAA covers most of a patient’s right to a private appointment. But, HIPAA only applies to covered entities. That means it only applies to the physicians, not to patients. So, if you’re talking to a physician on the phone or through a video chat, HIPAA laws do not apply to you, and information you share through your app/portal may not be safe.
The Food and Drug Administration currently regulates medical devices. However, it doesn’t have any regulation on apps or consumer-facing mobile devices for telehealth services. So, what’s the solution? As stated above, one federal organization needs to put telehealth under its existing umbrella to take control of these privacy issues.
The Growing Need for Telehealth
Thanks to COVID-19, it’s clear that telehealth is here to stay as an option for many people. More people will likely continue to use it. It can help with everything from physical ailments to counseling for loss or anxiety.
The system is not yet perfect when talking about privacy and telehealth. But, as the need for it continues to grow, we can likely expect at least one government sector to step up and create an overview of how telehealth privacy policies should look.
How To Use TeleHealth Right Now
In the meantime, look for options that offer some type of encryption (no less than 128bit and preferably more) and stay away from options that are designed as social vehicles – look for ones intentioned for business and even better, if built and maintained specifically for medical/health purposes.
Facetime, Skype and such are great for talking with grandparents or friends. Zoom, Meetings and such are good options for business meetings, teaching classes and industry networking. These have strong options for increasing privacy – so if your counselor or doctor is using them, make sure to ask if they have set those parameters in place. Doximity and others are designed specifically for medical – and there are a lot medical system portals that are private to only the professionals in the system using them, too.
You don’t have to be a webhead or a techie. You just have to ask your telehealth provider. My rule of thumb, if they don’t know how they are protecting your privacy, it begs the question of how strongly they really are.
If you want to know more about what telehealth is, how it works, or how you can ensure that your information and personal data are safe, please contact me for more details. Or visit my page about counseling for loss to learn about how I can help you navigate troubling times.