The rapidity and scope of telehealth services rollouts, not only in the US but around the world, has been nothing short of remarkable.
Providers who had never deployed or had limited experience with telehealth platforms quickly learned to integrate them into their care offerings. Similarly, patients quickly adapted to video consultations, remote monitoring, and an emerging array of virtual care options.
With its foundation in modern tech, telehealth is, by its nature, relatively easy to scale up and reach a mass audience. Nonetheless, protecting the massive amounts of sensitive patient health information, it not only generates, but also manages and stores, presents a large challenge that vendors and providers must address now to ensure not only the viability of their own platforms but telehealth as a whole.
Understand the essentials for building telehealth platforms that protect patient health information. Check out the actionable and expert telehealth security platform development framework.
The importance of identity management
Identity management boils down to ensuring the right person is getting access to information. While the concept is simple enough, executing it is a different story.
Telehealth solutions create thousands of new access points. Both staff and patients are using apps across phones, tablets, and desktops. In each of these channels, it is essential to authenticate that these users are who they say they are.
Doing so requires built-in security that checks if it is an authorized device connecting to the network, the use of one-time passwords and two-factor authentication, as well as knowledge-based verification questions.
Data security must be foundational
With telehealth, the volume of data immensely increases, which likewise expands the potential exposure to a breach. All of this data requires strong protections, and this begins with limiting access to the absolute minimum number of people necessary.
Moreover, vendors must consider safeguards at every step of the data lifecycle, from creation and storage to transmission and access.
This requires both secure app development and network cybersecurity tools like VPNs, firewalls, and secure SD-WAN.
Remote Monitoring Devices Are Another Hurdle
Telehealth and remote monitoring devices are closely linked. However, they also create unique challenges. On top of operating within unprotected patient networks, these devices have limited resources including processing power, battery life, and storage along with a comparatively simpler software ecosystem.
Consequently, foundational cybersecurity solutions may not be possible because they lack the form factor needed for basic security measures. For example, many monitoring devices lack keypads or screens where patients could input a PIN or password even if they wanted to.
While it may not always be possible to integrate the same protocols found on larger devices, vendors must develop solutions such as APIs and operating system managements that facilitate additional security layers over them.
Patient and provider education
Clinicians and staff need effective cybersecurity training and education about the new processes and workflows for digital healthcare.
Effective and secure telehealth requires knowledge about the platforms themselves and why, when, and how to send out credentials for everything from video consultations to remote patient monitoring.
Further, since patients are now also players in their data privacy. They need to be educated about cyber-hygiene best practices and how to keep their data safe as they connect from home WiFi networks.
Even before the telehealth revolution, the healthcare industry was a prime target for threat actors. With the rapid deployment of virtual care services and the chaotic and transitioning environment, healthcare systems have addotional exposure to cyber-risks.
Telehealth service providers must address these issues by creating patient/provider education programs and applying security hardening techniques.
Cybersecurity fundamentals like strong access authentication, multi-factor authentication, permissions management, and end-to-end encryption, are all must-haves for telehealth security platform development.
While all of these tools may not be available for the entire spectrum of telemedicine products, it’s essential to implement what is. Concurrently, providers must investigate other security measures, including network safeguards, firmware-based defenses, and hardware-level safety controls to prevent attackers from leveraging vulnerabilities in IoT medical devices.
Telehealth radically extends the availability and types of care that providers can deliver. In doing so, it also requires a secure and resilient solution with PHI protections built-in at every stage.
Internet connectivity is double-edged. The same connectivity that enables telehealth in the first place also creates the largest risks to patients. By tackling these challenges early, however, vendors will not only enhance the safety of their platforms but also create the secure ecosystem necessary for telehealth to prosper and achieve its full potential.