Data Security: Telehealth’s Achilles Heel?

September 9, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce, Telehealth

Last modified September 10, 2020

According to this article by MedPage Today, providers, more than ever, are opening themselves up to cyberattacks on an unprecedented scale. Recently The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance firm, published a report entitled “Your Patient is Logging on Now: The Risks and Benefits of Telehealth in the Future of Healthcare.” Among the five “foreseeable major risks” listed in the report: Telehealth “increases cyber liability, especially when providers are seeing patients from a variety of devices in a variety of locations.”

Cyberattacks seeking to steal patient data are not new to healthcare or telehealth. But prior to the pandemic, telehealth comprised only a small fraction of medical visits. Beginning in March, however, much of medicine suddenly shifted to the telehealth model, aided by the federal government’s temporary relaxation of HIPAA restrictions on telehealth. Many providers began conducting visits on unsecured lines at home. While physicians don’t have to worry at the moment about legal liability for cyberprivacy breaches, they still face this and other risks in the future as telehealth becomes part of routine practice. The size of telehealth’s role in data security breaches is unclear, but it is certainly a key factor of what experts and reports are calling a serious runaway problem.

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