Security and Privacy Considerations of Virtual Healthcare

February 20, 2023by Phenix Health

If you’re planning on offering virtual healthcare to your patients, it’s important to think about security and privacy considerations. Specifically, you’ll need to make sure that you’re following HIPAA requirements and that you have layered security to protect patients’ information.

Layered security is needed to meet HIPAA compliance requirements

If your healthcare organization is looking to meet HIPAA compliance, you should implement a multi-layer security approach that covers all major areas of concern. This includes network, systems, and administrative safeguards.

One of the most common violations is the improper disclosure of PHI. The HIPAA Privacy Rule defines PHI as individually identifiable health information. It can be written, oral, electronic, or stored in any form.

As part of their role, privacy officers must determine whether they are in compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which is the foundation for the overall HIPAA compliance process. They also need to establish policies and procedures to prevent violations.

Another requirement of HIPAA compliance is the Breach Notification Rule, which requires that organizations notify affected parties within 60 days if they believe a meaningful breach has occurred. A violation is considered meaningful if it involves at least 500 individuals in the jurisdiction.

The best way to avoid a data breach is to have a robust internal security program. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication, which allows users to be restricted based on time of day and location. In addition, you should implement regular activity logging to track when and how PHI is being used.

Insecure apps are used to conduct remote appointments

As telemedicine has become increasingly popular, security has risen to the top of the healthcare agenda. But, just like many other areas of our lives, security has come up short in a number of cases. This is especially true when it comes to the virtual world.

One of the best security practices is to only use secure applications when conducting remote appointments. Often, mainstream consumer apps such as Facebook and Whatsapp are too vulnerable for use in a medical context. To ensure the safety of their patients, providers should enable all available encryption modes.

Using an insecure app during a video call can lead to a number of problems. For one, hackers could hold a patient’s information for ransom. Second, they could also sell it on the dark web.

A report compiled by Kaspersky Healthcare reveals that there are some key things you should be aware of when using an insecure app to conduct remote appointments. These include:

a. The most important is to make sure the app you are using has an encryption mode that is both strong and secure. It should also require multi-factor authentication.

Telehealth providers share medical data with third parties using an email attachment without password

A recent report by Kaspersky Healthcare found that doctors and nurses are concerned about the potential of data breaches. Over two-thirds of respondents believe that there are a number of ethical gray areas surrounding the use of patient information, and 81 percent are uncertain about their own personal penalties for data leaks.

The report was based on interviews with 389 healthcare decision-makers in 34 countries. Among the top concerns were data privacy and security, as well as the ability to control access to patient information.

One of the biggest challenges facing the telehealth industry is the lack of transparency and data privacy protections. According to Kaspersky, a third of providers have experienced the breach of a patient’s private data during a telehealth session. This can include embarrassing medical information, as well as financial and personal information.

Although a majority of telehealth providers claim to be committed to the protection of patient information, many are still unsure of their own data security practices. Several have experienced patients who refused to participate in a video visit due to concerns about privacy.

HIPAA waiver for virtual healthcare providers after COVID-19 pandemic

The HHS Office for Civil Rights recently waived potential penalties for healthcare providers who use FaceTime or other widely available communication apps to deliver telehealth services. However, the legal basis for the waiver is unclear, and the scope of the waiver raises concerns about privacy and security.

Currently, the law requires health care providers to conduct privacy and security assessments before using telehealth. However, these assessments are not completed in real time. In addition, many HIPAA covered entities are not equipped to perform a comprehensive review of their systems.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued administrative and statutory HIPAA waivers. These statutory and administrative waivers are authorized under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act.

Under this authority, HHS can issue a statutory waiver for virtual healthcare providers to carry out diagnostic and treatment activities. However, this authorization is only limited to hospitals located within specific geographic areas. Because of the nature of the emergency, these waivers will not cover patients who live outside of the designated geographic areas.