Devin Partida writes about cyber security and technology. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
During the pandemic, telehealth garnered extensive attention due to its unparalleled functionality and efficacy as a healthcare resource. When hospitals and doctors’ offices were flooded with patients exhibiting severe coronavirus symptoms, and people were told to stay home if they showed symptoms of the disease, telehealth provided ways for doctors and patients to connect safely.
Although the acute phase of the pandemic is receding, and telehealth may no longer be as necessary as previously, telehealth continues to yield a multitude of benefits. Nonetheless, telehealth does have its risks. Users should tighten security on this digital form of medical care, since the information is so sensitive and confidential. People may wish to consider the following security risks ahead of sharing information online.
As long as the internet exists, there will be cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are malicious and dangerous, and they inevitably pose a threat to the information that people share through the internet. But the attacks can be identified and prevented with the proper security measures.
Malware is the most common form of attack. It can be disguised as suspicious links, websites or files. A malware infection can occur when an unknown program installs itself on a device. Once installed, malware can prevent machines from working correctly, it can steal or delete information, and possibly spread to other connected items. Ensure that you have the latest antimalware program installed and watch out for suspicious activity.
Ransomware is malware’s ugly stepsister. It installs itself on a device, steals valuable data and information and blocks the functionality of programs. Ransomware operators demand payment to return access to users. This malicious attack type is hard to prevent, but updating antivirus and antimalware programs helps.
When passwords are stolen, sensitive information is taken and weaponized against users or organizations. Password theft is especially worrisome for businesses that need their files and folders to run efficiently. Password stealing websites can be disguised as legitimate websites that prompt password entry and then steal login credentials. Do not enter information into a web portal unless you can verify that it is an authentic entity requesting the information. Password protection is essential. Use multiple passwords for logins and utilize two-factor authentication wherever possible.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Accessing the internet is risky, no matter what people use it for. But telehealth’s benefits arguably outweigh the risks. Since the internet is used for so many reasons, patients should use it to their advantage regarding health. Here are some of the benefits telemedicine provides for its users.
An increasing number of healthcare providers offer more affordable services when using telehealth options. Telemedicine provides an easier route to care for users and physicians alike.
It Reduces Travel Expenses
Using gas to drive to appointments is obsolete with telemedicine, since doctors visits can be completed remotely. As long as the internet is accessible from home, users won’t have to travel anywhere to see their physicians.
It Provides Patient Convenience
Telemedicine provides convenience for patients due to ease of use. Requesting time off of work to account for travel or time spent waiting to see the doctor on behalf of appointments is no longer necessary. A short break and a private meeting space are all that’s needed for a doctor’s visit with telehealth.
It Offers Specialist Access
Access to specialists is much easier with telehealth than it was before. The user’s location is no longer a factor in whether a specialist can be utilized in their medical treatment. Telemedicine also allows for shorter wait times when it comes to scan results, since they can be emailed to the physicians.
Ways Healthcare Organizations Can Mitigate Risks
Healthcare organizations may wish to implement steps to prevent or minimize the effect of cyber threats on telehealth systems, applications and patients. Here’s how healthcare organizations can get started…
- Conduct a risk assessment. This should include scoping, identification, analysis, evaluation and documentation.
- Create an incident response plan. An incident response plan (IR) should identify the critical systems and potential risks, how to handle issues using specific procedures and it should define the precise responsibilities of the response team.
- Gather the team and train the members by establishing protocols for communication.
- Review the response plan on a regular basis to ensure regulatory compliance.
- Use strong passwords, firewalls and VPNs.
- Keep malware and antivirus updated.
- Back up data and encrypt it. Scheduling frequent backups, using remote storage solutions and a data retention schedule are all excellent ways to protect data.
Secure Telehealth Operations
Healthcare and telehealth-based businesses are at high risk for cyber attacks because they store and protect many files full of monetarily valuable information. Individuals and organizations can take steps to protect their healthcare data, as outlined above. Doing so can assist with telemedicine’s continued use, high-quality results, evolution and expansion.