Protecting Privacy in Telehealth Communication

Health care providers have been able to use telehealth for a wide range of services, from exams to consultations to diagnosis to patient monitoring, and even reminding them of their appointments via text message (you can see here how SMS software makes this possible). However, as the accompanying resource points out, with all of these benefits come some risks, largely revolving around privacy. The resource provides a high-level overview of the major privacy issues with telehealth, as well as recommendations for securing data and communication.

The privacy of people’s health information is a crucial aspect of telehealth communication. A privacy breach could endanger a patient’s safety, well-being, and trust in the health care provider. Hence, healthcare providers need to ensure that their telehealth platform is secure and protects patient privacy and security. This can be done by encrypting data, restricting access to personal information, and disclosing how data is collected and used. In addition, it is also important to use secure medical practice management software that is typically used for storing patient records, billing, and scheduling appointments. An insecure software could expose customers’ data and hospitals’ financial information to unauthorized parties.

When healthcare administrators think about privacy, their attention often turns to software systems and procedures used in the transmission and collection of personal data. This is definitely an important aspect of patient privacy protection, and there are many regulations in place (click to learn about one of them, the GDPR) that ensure companies use personal data in an ethical and legal manner. Nevertheless, relatively simple changes – such as having automatic log-off for video conferencing – could help a great deal in preventing other members of the staff or unauthorized personnel and third parties from accidentally or purposefully gaining access.

The most sophisticated malware detection system and heavily encrypted data transmission may not prevent an unauthorized individual in the office from overhearing a confidential patient conversation. Whether the eavesdropping is intentional or inadvertent, such breaches can be just as damaging as any other type of breach. Health care offices should design spaces to keep telehealth providers as isolated as possible and install soundproofing systems to dampen sound and keep private conversations private. For more information about privacy and telehealth, please continue reading the resource.