Patients have never been more vulnerable. Alongside the obvious health concerns of living through a pandemic, the fear surrounding a global crisis can have catastrophic consequences when it comes to security. Nowhere is that more true than with the growing embrace of remote healthcare. Knowing what to look for in a truly secure Telehealth system can make all the difference when it comes to keeping patients safe.
With Telehealth, Security Is Everything
Allowing physicians to provide care even when their patients are isolating at home, Telehealth has emerged as the single most important technology during the coronavirus pandemic. Remote visits of every kind, whether COVID-19 related or not, can take place while keeping practice waiting rooms safe and patients socially-distanced.
But all video conferencing is not created equal. Due to soaring demand and the understandable desire to reach patients however possible, many practices have resorted to video conferencing platforms that aren’t secure, let alone HIPAA-compliant. That even includes platforms notorious for vulnerabilities. In these cases, though, its patients who suffer the consequences.
As COVID-19-focused cybercrime skyrockets, the unfortunate truth is that hackers can leverage gaps in security to steal and hold patient data for ransom. And with a shocking number of bad actors looking to take advantage of the crisis, it’s up to practices to protect their patients.
A Responsibility to Your Patients
In response to the coronavirus and the sudden restrictions of social distancing, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relaxed its enforcement of HIPAA non-compliance penalties, allowing providers to temporarily turn towards the more widely available video conferencing apps. Likewise, if it means the difference between having access to Telehealth or not, more than a few patients are unfortunately happy to risk less secure platforms.
In 2014, as Telehealth was beginning to grow, the American Medical Association (AMA) Journal of Ethics published an article analyzing the technology’s future as we saw it at the time. Doctors cited cases in which only fully healthy patients rose concerns about risky platforms. “In general, for most people, the convenience of rapid access to information and communication with clinicians outweighed privacy concerns.”
Despite that, however, the article pointed to an erosion of trust between patients and their healthcare institutions as the prime threat Telehealth data breaches could introduce. Not only can an IT breach negatively affect your practice’s reputation and bottom line, but that erosion of trust is also just as real a threat today as it was six years ago.
That is why it’s so important for practices and physicians to step up. Even when your patients are fearful enough to risk it, and the penalties are lessened, you can make the right choice and stay HIPAA-compliant.
Features of a Secure Telehealth System
End to End Media Encryption
All media traffic (voice and video) must be encrypted end to end, no matter the endpoint you use (web or mobile). An endpoint is the CODEC, camera, and monitor used for video-conferencing and can include mobile, software, video phone, stand-alone desktops, etc.
Peer-to-Peer Secure Network Connections
These types of connections obscure the location of each party, adding to the overall security of the transmission. Your Telehealth software must implement security at multiple levels, securing all data transmitted between endpoints. It generates random keys at the beginning of the session that change periodically during the conversation to make it even safer.
No Video/Media Storage
As long as your Telehealth software does not store video/media, it eliminates the possibility of unauthorized access to ePHI. Taking steps to disable screenshots or video recordings from the patient side is even safer.
A Better Telehealth Solution For Your Practice
When implemented correctly, a real Telehealth system can transform a practice. Remote visits mean you can see more patients, reduce waiting times, cut down on no-shows and cancellations, and increase patient satisfaction. But when you conduct those visits through a secure system, designed from the ground up for Telehealth, the benefits only multiply.
When integrated with your EHR, a Telehealth system automatically imports all the information from your visit. You don’t have to worry about third-party applications or cataloging your visit in multiple systems, making your practice that much more efficient.
HIPAA-compliant, reliable, integrated Telehealth is a reality. Don’t let your patients down by settling for less.