Telehealth, or the use of telecommunications technologies to provide health care services, allows the delivery of health care to patients despite the restrictions of geography. The scope of telehealth is wide-ranging; it includes connecting EMS providers using tablet devices to emergency room physicians to care for stroke patients, as well as virtual care, where the physician consults with the patient over a computer connection. In all its manifestations, telehealth is a surging industry that is expanding access to care.
While the benefits of telehealth may be apparent, the security risks are less obvious. Five security issues related to telehealth that health care providers may not be aware of follows:
When a health care provider is choosing which telecommunication provider they wish to use to provide telehealth services, they need to carefully review what security safeguards the telecommunication provider has in place. As with any new piece of technology, telehealth’s reliance on telecommunication services presents its own set of unique security issues.
An important consideration when evaluating the telecommunications platform is whether the transmission of the communication is encrypted. Encryption protects privacy by encoding the transmitted data so that if it is intercepted, it cannot be read without the decryption key. While a patient can request that their protected health information be sent to them without using encryption, and the Office for Civil Rights has indicated that the health care provider should comply with that request, it is a best practice to ensure that transmissions initiated by a health care provider containing protected health information should be encrypted. [Read more…]