Cybersecurity and Telehealth: Requirements and Considerations

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senior woman showing pills bottle at a telehealth cybersecurity requirementsTelehealth has undoubtedly transformed the healthcare industry and dramatically improved access to medical care. Organizations that are focused on adopting, and optimizing, telehealth will be strongly positioned to meet patient demands for convenience in medical care as expectations evolve.

According to a recent Accenture survey, more than half of patients surveyed are more likely to choose providers who have digital capabilities, and 49 percent want to be able to communicate with their providers through video conferencing. This is up from 36 percent in 2016.

As telehealth becomes more prevalent and sophisticated, there will continue to be an increase in risks related to keeping information private and secure.

Increase in Healthcare Cyberattacks

The rapid pace at which telehealth applications have been introduced in recent years has made them attractive targets for hackers.

Since 2010, the number of data breaches has steadily grown, according to HIPAA Journal, with the records of about 12.6 percent of the U.S. population exposed, stolen or impermissibly disclosed.

This number is even higher now due to the surge of telehealth usage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why Is Telehealth a Threat to Cybersecurity?

There are a variety of innovative tools that help providers easily share important patient information across platforms.

Unfortunately, telehealth has also made it easier for hackers to discover and exploit vulnerable security systems, leading to cybersecurity events like data breaches and identity theft.

To prevent financial and reputational damage and to protect personal patient information, healthcare organizations that use telehealth have a duty to increase cybersecurity practices.

Concerns of Patient Privacy and Security

woman hand using smartphone and icon key on shield on telehealth cybersecurity requirements

The use of telehealth applications and devices poses significant patient privacy and security challenges.

Technology failures, legacy IT infrastructure, unpatched software, physical security risks, and complex identity and access management could potentially lead to an unexpected cybersecurity event.

When sensitive patient information is exposed, patients affected by the breach may have the right to sue the organization for any damages.

Compliance with Federal Regulations

HIPAA and other privacy regulations provide protections for certain identifiable health information when it is collected and shared by covered entities, such as healthcare providers.

The Federal Trade Commission Act also requires businesses to implement reasonable security practices to prevent the misuse of sensitive health information.

Businesses that offer telehealth services are obligated to comply with these federal regulations or risk the harsh penalties and fines associated with noncompliance.

What are the HIPAA Requirements for Cybersecurity and Telehealth?

Enacted in 1996, HIPAA provides security and data privacy provisions that help safeguard medical information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule covers many areas, including Protected Health Information (PHI) and electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI).

Under the HIPAA Security Rule, guidelines state that only authorized users can gain access to ePHI and that a system of secure communication must be implemented to help protect the integrity of ePHI.

Communications must also be monitored to prevent malicious or accidental data breaches. As one wrong click on a malicious email could expose an organization’s sensitive information, employees should undergo thorough and ongoing cybersecurity training with a focus on mitigating potential attacks.

Employees should be trained not to open emails or click links in emails from unknown senders and to report potential phishing attacks to leadership.

Email, Message and Video Encryption

Businesses that offer telehealth services may use a variety of technology to connect with patients, such as emails, messaging systems or videos. To prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to the data, all patient information must be properly encrypted.

Multifactor Authentication Methods

Enforcing continuous identity authentication can help businesses provide data access to only authorized users. There are a variety of ways that identity authentication can be accomplished, such as through multifactor authentication.

Multifactor authentication requires a user to provide at least two pieces of identifying evidence to sign in, such as a password and a code sent to the user’s cell phone or email address.

Advanced Security Across Devices

person using fingerprint scanning on mobile phone at telehealth cybersecurity requirements

Not all types of devices offer the same level of security. Even if a healthcare organization takes the proper steps to protect the devices of their staff,, a patient’s device may not be properly protected.

This means that a staff member’s device and data may become compromised through the patient’s device.

Organizations can implement a variety of safeguards to help minimize these risks, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and firewalls.

Speak with the Cybersecurity Consultants About Telehealth Cybersecurity Requirements

Telehealth services are an invaluable resource for both patients and providers.

However, it is essential for healthcare organizations to follow cybersecurity best practices and keep up with privacy requirements to keep their organization and their patients safe from damaging cybersecurity events.

Where does your organization stand when it comes to telehealth and cybersecurity? Reach out to Hartman Executive Advisors today for an initial conversation and learn how we can work alongside your leadership team to keep your organization protected and compliant.

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