Telemedicine: New Risks Born Out of Necessity

11 Aug, 2021 5 min read
Rudy Lim
Rudy Lim
Global Operations Director
COVID-19 has severely tested the limits of our healthcare systems, pushing many hospitals to the brink of manpower and technological collapse. In fact, the pandemic has demonstrated just how quickly public health can unravel once healthcare systems reach their maximum capacity. These pressures have hastened the development of telemedicine, pushing the once-distant goal to the centre of the agenda for healthcare institutions across the globe.

This of course, is a positive step forward. Distance health taps into the power of telecommuting to bring healthcare to patients remotely. Clinics and hospitals offering distance healthcare have already reported the benefits of increased healthcare access to individuals who do not have readily available transport. Telehealth also greatly reduces their risk exposure to COVID-19 and other pathogens and this growing shift in treatment from the hospital to the home is freeing up much needed space on hospital premises. This allows more patients to be served while redirecting critical resources to the patients who need them the most.

A significant portion of patients are also welcoming the change. A recent survey by Healthcare IT News indicated that 50% of patients would prefer virtual visits for healthcare services such as psychiatry, gynecology, and pediatrics.

However, benefits aside, it’s critical that we don’t forget that the growing number of digitally-connected healthcare devices also brings with it heightened risks of data leaks.

In 2020, cyberattacks on healthcare rose by 55%, affecting over 26 million people.

Most concerningly, these data leaks can occur on a scale that many healthcare organizations may not have the experience, expertise, or financial resources to deal with.

Telehealth security: A growing concern

Commonly known as remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices, RPMs help monitor a patient’s health outside the traditional clinic setting. They are commonly used to test glucose, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels. RPM devices can also send medication reminders and timely reports to patients’ caretakers. In this way, patients can receive consultations from their healthcare providers, saving several trips to the hospital.

But just as RPM devices expand the communications network of hospitals, they also spread digital security risks, by introducing new sites of infiltration and uncontrollable variables to hospitals’ IT systems. When patients connect RPMs to unsecured networks and devices or expose themselves to suspect websites and links, they potentially place entire healthcare networks under security risks.

Researchers from St. Jude Medical have reported that hackers could alter commands on cardiac devices such as defibrillators.

In cases where patients rely on devices for life support, these security breaches can be deadly. A couple of seconds in the interruption of critical life care can make all the difference between life and death.

In fact, last year, a 78-year-old aortic aneurysm patient had to redirected to another hospital 32 kilometres away when ransomware cut a German hospital’s treatment capacity to less than half. Having no choice but to refuse further admissions, many patients in the town of Düsseldorf were robbed of the medical attention they desperately needed.

Why Are Healthcare Networks So Insecure?

For all the technological strides that healthcare has made, digitalization and cybersecurity have not kept pace with the relentless growth of the industry. The consequence of this is that the industry loses an average of US$499 for every data breach. Cyberattacks on healthcare have, in fact, spawned an entire industry that is now worth over US$13.2 billion.

Cybersecurity experts are sounding the alarm on the barrage of unregistered devices that are continually being introduced into already-dense IT networks.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) market was valued at US$18.75 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow to US$142.45 billion in 2026.

The problem is, each device compounds the likelihood of malicious cyberattacks occurring, and the unfortunate truth is, times of insecurity are the best time for hackers to prey on a susceptible public.

Phishing links disguised within posters, emails, and other media masquerading as public health information from health authorities are clicked on more frequently by people when they are anxious to get updates. All it takes is for one unsuspecting person to click on ransomware-laced pseudo links for entire databases of patient health data to be extracted.

The Answer - Proactive and inherent Data protection

Unfortunately, protecting confidential data has become just as difficult as stopping a pandemic. By the time you’ve identified that a data loss has occurred, it’s almost impossible to salvage it. That’s why we’re on a mission to spread the word of our proactive data protection solution, the SecureAge Security Suite, that makes 100% data security possible.

This solution ups the ante on traditional File and Folder Encryption (FFE) solutions evidenced by the fact that none of our customers, including government agencies, have been blindsided by a data loss event in over 18-years.

The SecureAge Security Suite works because of three simple truths - data protection is only effective when it’s applied at the most granular level, data protection is only effective when it’s applied everywhere and data protection is only effective when it’s applied all of the time! Unfortunately, existing FFE solutions do not cater to these needs. They only protect some data, some of the time. But with the SecureAge Security Suite it doesn’t matter whether your data is on your end points, or even on email, every piece of data is protected every time! The best parts are, it’s HIPAA-compliant AND even if your data does get into the wrong hands the data will be completely useless as they won’t be able to decipher it - now that’s how you protect your patients.

See the difference the SecureAge Security Suite can make with a short demo.

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