Has Cyber Risk Increased Due to the Rapid Rise in Telehealth Use?
The Covid-19 pandemic has created more opportunities to receive healthcare from home via telehealth, but the article weighs cyber risk against the benefits.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly increased the importance of telehealth in our day to day lives. The Digital Health care system has made it possible for healthcare providers to see 50 times more patients than before. Telehealth can now successfully deliver emergency ward visits, office visits, and outpatient volume. Patients, as well as providers, benefit hugely from it. Apart from increasing the efficiency of the healthcare system, it also brings the cost down. Since every benefit has a downside, the drawback to telehealth is the cyber risk. Telehealth comes with security and privacy risks, which the technocrats are trying to eliminate.
The Increasing Vulnerability
Healthcare facilities are more than eager to deliver the services of medicine through telehealth. Still, several platforms do not have appropriate data safeguards to keep sensitive data of the patients safe. Connectivity, which makes telehealth possible, is also responsible for the security risks to patients’ data. Delivering remote services and protecting the patient’s health information don’t go hand in hand.
Any data transmitted on the internet carries the risk of tapping by swindlers present on the internet. Since time immemorial, cybercriminals’ most preferred target has been the healthcare sector. In the year 2019, data breaches in the healthcare sector accounted for $4 billion. The year 2020 has proved to be nothing extraordinary. Attacks from cybercriminals continue to threaten the confidential data of patients even today. The biggest challenge is the patients don’t have control over the collection, sharing, and usage of their data.
The Boom in Telehealth Leads to More Fraud
In addition to concerns of cyber risks, experts have also kept an eye on the incidents of abuse and fraud as more providers and patients switch to virtual care and telehealth. Services of telehealth give rise to fraudulent practices, such as billing for more visits than the actual number of visits, over-treating patients, and upcoding.
Upcoding refers to the practice where higher payment is demanded for services that don’t exactly match the billing description.
Telehealth services have acted as a driving force for the swindlers by providing several new opportunities to cheat or commit fraud. Areas of concentration for fraud are unknown to us when it comes to frauds committed in the telehealth system. There are several unique and new ways to commit fraud, which makes it difficult for healthcare providers to detect the problem and stop it.
A sharp increase has been observed in chatter associated with the telehealth credentials and apps on the hacker forums and Dark Web market. Healthcare vendors have noticed the sharing of malicious codes via criminal platforms that would enable the attackers to get all the patient health information from telehealth systems.
Researchers believe that malware is used primarily to procure patient data. In other circumstances, they found hackers delivering particulars on how to tap a healthcare imaging system so that medical images, including X-rays, could be procured, changed, and sold.
The sudden shift to Digital health because of the pandemic has allowed the swindlers to hammer in devices and home networks, remote collaboration tools, video conferencing, and other equipment that are connected via a network.
Undoubtedly, telehealth is a significant part of delivering efficient health care whilst maintaining social distance. However, cyber risk proves to be a significant setback. But the pandemic has left us with no other choice than to use telehealth.
Cybercriminals have been targeting VPNs, remote workers, and cloud service platforms to extract patient identity and information. The death of a patient because of a weak security system isn’t justified in any way. So, the care providers must begin to exercise more control and visibility over the network.
The service providers must make sure the telehealth is well encrypted while implementing telehealth services. Data is vulnerable, always including storage, access, and transmission. Therefore, it must be highly encrypted during all the stages. People should not lose faith in telehealth services just because of security and privacy concerns.
We wouldn’t be where we are now without digital healthcare services. The benefits are enough to outweigh the problems. If providers ensure rigorous standards to reduce the threats, then telehealth can function to its fullest potential and live up to your expectations.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.