Telehealth's Inherent Privacy, Security Risks
Telehealth is widely seen as a beneficial advancement for its ability to increase access to care while often reducing costs. However, telehealth brings with it several inherent privacy and security risks, according to an article in Health Affairs.
Connecting with a patient at home or receiving biometric data via a remote monitoring device has the potential to inadvertently transmit sensitive information about the patient's household activities, creating privacy risks. For instance, a device used to alert medical professionals if a patient falls may also reveal information about that patient's religious activity, spousal interactions or may even indicate when the patient's house is unattended, according to the report. Additionally, this information may be stored and accessed not only by the healthcare provider but the app or device manufacturer as well, further disseminating potentially sensitive information.
Currently, HIPAA and other laws require the equipment that providers use to communicate with patients to have data encryption measures and other safeguards. However, at the other end, patients' computers or remote monitoring devices may not have these safeguards, increasing security risks. Some medical devices have also been shown to be especially vulnerable to hackers.
To help mitigate these risks, providers should ensure patients understand the privacy and security risks associated with telehealth services. The authors recommend distributing remote monitoring devices in person to confirm the identity of the user and working to ensure vendor compliance with privacy and security regulations.
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