The Importance of Cybersecurity Measures in the Telehealth Industry
By Daisy Jace (Guest Contributor)
Telehealth services connect patients to medical professionals in just a few clicks. Due to the convenience that these services provide, around two million telehealth encounters were recorded in the first three months of 2020 alone. This is undoubtedly making medical services more accessible to people at home, especially those who are unable to travel to their local healthcare facility.
However, alongside the benefits of telehealth, this relatively new medical practice still has significant limitations. For one, telehealth services enable personal data to be more accessible to everyone, including cybercriminals. As such, the importance of cybersecurity measures cannot be overstated.
Rise of Cybercrime in the Telehealth Industry
Since telehealth services have to be conducted digitally, patients need to submit their personal data through the internet. Additionally, their financial information is encoded into the health service’s internal system. Consequently, without robust cybersecurity measures and regulations in place, this information becomes easily accessible to hackers and cybercriminals.
Alex Heid, the chief R&D officer of SecurityScorecard, states that telehealth apps also increase the digital footprint of healthcare organizations, making them more susceptible to attacks. To illustrate, the IP reputation security of medical institutions decreased by 77% because of malware infections, phishing attempts, and other cybercrimes. This means that their digital services are less secure and more susceptible to data breaches. Similarly, hackers are attacking telehealth vendors to get patients’ health information, which they can use for digital identity theft. Despite the dangers that come with storing patient information, such data is integral for proper diagnoses. Given this, the telehealth industry needs to improve its efforts in data security.
Unfortunately, telehealth is just one of the digital services being targeted by cybercriminals. Cybersecurity experts have noticed that the number of incidents has doubled since people transitioned to using digital services following the pandemic. And unfortunately, cybersecurity professionals are currently outnumbered by these criminals. David Shearer, CEO of the largest association of certified cybersecurity professionals, points out that the industry will need four million trained cybersecurity professionals to protect digital services—telehealth included.
Cybersecurity Measures that Can Improve Telehealth Programs
In this digital era where technology grows increasingly complex, telehealth services require the help of cybersecurity professionals to protect sensitive company and patient data. Unfortunately, there is currently a shortage of such professionals due to the ever-increasing demand for them. To remedy this, educational institutions are doing their part to establish more accessible online bachelor’s programs in cybersecurity to produce a new generation of cyber professionals. These cybersecurity programs are just as thorough as traditional degrees, and enable tech experts to secure digital applications and prevent cybercrimes. Such offensive and defensive skills are critical in protecting patient information and preventing malicious breaches. However, while the industry is still suffering from a massive talent gap, organizations must take matters into their own hands and find ways to secure their digital systems. What follows are a few of the best practices for boosting cybersecurity for telehealth services.
One of the best security measures that telehealth services can implement is a biometric authentication process. Biometrics technology is already being used in retail services, financial institutions, and even law enforcement because it requires users to verify their identity through unique biological characteristics. This intensive verification process ensures that only authorized registered individuals can access the system.
Furthermore, telehealth services can implement data encryption to protect their patients’ information. The data encryption process translates sensitive data into a different format that cannot be unlocked by outsiders. In case of any breaches, cybercriminals will only be able to access an unidentified format that cannot be translated into actual information.
Telehealth programs are revolutionary services that allow more patients to consult with licensed medical professionals. However, telehealth providers have to establish proper security measures to protect their patients and their company from any cyberattacks. While the most optimal way of doing this is through onboarding a dedicated cybersecurity professional, there are some simple measures that can be implemented to boost data security within the system.
To learn more about how Imageware can help your healthcare system secure your data and systems, click here.