Devin Partida writes about cyber security and technology. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
Telehealth has transformed the medical industry. Recent reports show that 91% of medical organizations have implemented telehealth systems, with 44% only doing so after the pandemic began. While these tools have remarkable potential for improving efficiency and accessibility, they also carry some risks.
The health care sector has faced continued cyber security breaches throughout the past two years. As more cyber criminals target medical facilities, these organizations must ensure their new digital tools are secure.
Here are five steps these businesses can take to ensure the cyber security of telehealth.
1. Verify the security of third parties
Telehealth services typically operate through third-party telecommunications platforms. Consequently, before choosing a platform to use for telehealth, hospitals must verify their security. Failure to do so can result in third-party breaches, exposing sensitive patient data through a vulnerability on the third party’s side.
When looking for telehealth solutions, health care providers should look for end-to-end encryption and multifactor authentication (MFA). Solutions that don’t enable these tools aren’t secure enough for telehealth applications. Asking for independent auditors to verify telehealth platforms’ security may be necessary to ensure they offer the protection hospitals need.
2. Encrypt telehealth data at every point
Given the sensitive nature of health care information, organizations must also encrypt telehealth data at every point. Since many platforms don’t enable end-to-end encryption by default, users must ensure it’s turned on before a session. Encryption should apply to more than just the visit itself, too.
Health care organizations must encrypt any patient data in storage, both on the cloud and on-premises devices. Any device or system that touches telehealth data must employ encryption to ensure any breach doesn’t expose patient data.
3. Tighten authentication protocols
Telehealth adoptees must also restrict access to this data and tighten the controls that authenticate these privileged users. The most important step in this process is to use MFA whenever someone tries to access telehealth systems. Requiring patients to set up MFA on their end is recommended, too.
Logging every authentication attempt and successful access is also crucial. These logs will provide insight into usage patterns and determine whether there are any potential insider threats to examine. Large organizations that may be more tempting targets may consider going a step further by implementing zero-trust architecture.
4. Seek accreditation
One of the challenges with telehealth cyber security is that health care providers are not security experts. Many of these companies are new to cyber security, so they may not understand what steps they need to take. Telehealth accreditation programs can provide the guidance they need to stay secure and compliant.
The accreditation process will help organizations identify opportunities for improvement according to high standards. They can then follow the accreditor’s recommendations to become more secure. As a secondary advantage, having an accredited system can also showcase value to customers and potential partners.
5. Teach all employees cyber security best practices
Finally, as in any cyber security process, all telehealth users should undergo security training. Studies show that as many as 88% of data breaches in businesses result from employee error. Consequently, one of the most effective security measures is to ensure all workers understand the risks they face and the best practices to avoid them.
This training should include periodic refreshers to ensure employees remain vigilant. Every few months, anyone with access to telehealth systems or records should undergo another training course or meeting. Offering similar resources to patients can further reduce user-related risks.
Cyber security Is essential for telehealth
Telehealth has the potential to be one of the most disruptive technologies in the health care industry. However, it must be secure to reach its full potential. If medical organizations don’t employ strong cyber security practices, telehealth may cause more problems than it solves.
These five steps are not the only paths towards telehealth cyber security, but they are the most critical. If health care businesses employ these practices, they can offer telehealth services without fear of a data breach.
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Disclaimer: The views and information expressed in this article belong to the author and are not necessarily held by CyberTalk.org or Check Point Software.