Telehealth lets your health care provider care for you without an in-person office visit. It’s done online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone via video chat, phone call, or messaging. It gives you access to health care from the comfort of your own home.
New applications make this access as easy as possible. As the pandemic has brought about a tremendous shift to telehealth, it now seems like telehealth is the holy grail for delivering virtual primary care. But the big question is: Are virtual doctor visits private and secure?
Whenever technology and sensitive data is involved, cybercriminals will not be too far behind, threatening to expose sensitive patient information.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which regulates how providers use and share patient information, imposes its privacy, security, and breach notification requirements on telehealth as well.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a notice of enforcement discretion stating that “it would not impose penalties for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act noncompliance against providers using unsecure or noncompliant telehealth technologies in good faith to communicate with patients during the PHE. However, the OCR published guidance in 2022 confirming that such flexibility would terminate at the end of the PHE.”
Assuring data privacy and security is essential. Organizations need to reconsider their current security measures and establish solutions that meet current requirements while ensuring that the benefits of telehealth.
“The healthcare sector is integrating with several third-party vendors and gathering more patient data, so relying solely on conventional network security methods like VPN may no longer be effective.” Organizations need to implement an architecture that guarantees enhanced network connectivity and security.
The increased use of telehealth during the pandemic emphasized its value in improving the delivery of and access to health care. It’s time for state and federal policymakers to rethink how telehealth is regulated and how to manifest telehealth’s place in health care.