Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

How Patients Can Stay Safe During Telehealth Visits

By Brad Smith (technology expert, TurnOnVPN, a non-profit organization focusing on a free and unimpeded internet for all)

Introduction

During the COVID pandemic, many patients were stuck at home, left with no way to make their regular medical appointments. For this very reason, many doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists began emphasizing the importance of telehealth. 

Image from Unsplash.com

According to JAMA Network Open, telehealth services saw a greater than 1000% increase last March—around the time the pandemic started.

With telehealth, patients could continue their regular appointments with little hindrance, medical resources on-site wouldn’t be so strained, and it would be easier than ever for doctors and patients to communicate with each other.

Dangers Facing Telehealth Patients

All that said, telehealth patients need to be careful when using telehealth services. Why? Cybercriminals have begun focusing on telehealth services in a couple of ways.

Note that these risks affect patients more so than medical practices. The reason being that, while medical practices are required to pay attention to cybersecurity and follow HIPAA Compliance, patients are often caught lacking in the cybersecurity department.

Data Breaches

Let’s start by talking about data breaches. If neither the patient nor the medical staff neglect proper cybersecurity, it becomes easy for a cybercriminal to breach both parties’ data. 

For example, an unsecured call opens both the patient and staff up to a man-in-the-middle attack, a practice where a cybercriminal listens in on a call and intercepts the data transfer between both parties. Patients are especially vulnerable to this if they are not on a secure network. 

Phishing Scams

If cybercriminals have learned one thing, it’s that phishing scams, unfortunately, work. The reason for this is that when it comes to serious topics like anything regarding a patient’s health, they will respond before they verify the source of the email.

Typically, phishing scams will ask for personal information or take the patient to an online form where they will fill out a form with tons of their personal information (their social security number, for example).  

How Patients Can Secure Their Devices

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that patients can secure their data while using telehealth services. Today, let’s go over three of the best ways to do so.

1. Encrypt Their Connection

To avoid data breaches (on the patient’s end) and man-in-the-middle attacks, it is recommended that all telehealth patients encrypt their connections. This means strengthening the security of their network and encrypting the data their device sends out during a telehealth visit.

Modern home networks often come with good encryption, so patients should mainly focus on encrypting their device’s data with a VPN, a Virtual Private Network. What a VPN does is actively encrypt the data your device sends out and anonymizes your presence on a network, making it a perfect solution for active data encryption.

2. Use Strong Passwords for Telehealth-Related Accounts

Many doctors use services like MyChart to make patient communication easier. Messages, test results, and notes: telehealth services like MyChart are useful for both patients and medical staff. And since private patient information is shared on these services, patients often need to create accounts and secure their accounts with a password.

That said, some patients probably don’t use as strong of a password as they should. If you use an online telehealth service, make sure that your password is strong enough that a cybercriminal can’t guess it.

3. Scan Their Device(s) for Malware 

Patients need to routinely check their devices for malware. Since certain types of malware—spyware and keyloggers being major culprits—can often go undetected for extended periods of time, performing routine scans will help patients stay secure, especially during telehealth visits.

Conclusion

With a rise in telehealth comes a rise in cybercriminals targeting patients with scams and cyber-attacks. To stay safe, patients need to do the best they can to secure their devices, which means using strong passwords, scanning their devices for threats, and encrypting their data.


Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting a safe and free internet for all. He writes about his dream for free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs

 

Practices & Tips

Caregiving and Telehealth in the World of Coronavirus

By John Schall, CEO, Caregiver Action Network

Sophie’s dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer right as the pandemic shut down started.  There were a lot of doctor’s appointments and tests to keep track of, and Sophie really needed to be there for all of the appointments – there was no way that her 87-year-old dad could keep track of everything the doctors said. The in-person visits went well – the cancer center understood that she had to be there. But when the appointments became video appointments,  things got really complicated, really fast. Sophie got her father a webcam and taught him how to use it. But the first video appointment was set up as a FaceTime call – so Sophie had to teach her dad how to FaceTime. Then, there were a series of registration questions in some app that wouldn’t allow the text to appear large enough for her dad to read it, so Sophie took care of that, too. The next doctor wouldn’t let her join the video appointment unless she was in the same room as her dad. After several telehealth visits, it got easier and the benefits of not exposing her dad to COVID, outweighed the tech challenges. 

What is a video appointment? Is it the same as telehealth? Is this even a real doctor’s visit? Is it covered by insurance? What if my loved one doesn’t have a smart phone or a computer? 

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Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

Patients Have Delayed or Not Seen a Doctor Because of COVID-19

A survey conducted by the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety has found that patients have delayed or not seen a doctor because of COVID-19.

184 patients responded to the online survey conducted from August 25, 2020 to September 7, 2020.

Patients Are Concerned About Getting COVID-19

In response to the question, “How concerned are you of getting COVID-19?” approximately half of the respondents (45%) said that they were extremely concerned or moderately concerned about getting COVID-19, while one in five of the respondents (20%) were not concerned or only slightly concerned.

However, fear of getting COVID-19 is particularly high in patients with atrial fibrillation and other cardiovascular diseases – more than nine of ten (92%) of whom were extremely concerned or moderately concerned. According to the CDC, patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease may be at a greater risk of getting COVID-19. The high percentage of survey respondents being concerned about getting COVID-19 may reflect this CDC warning.

In comparison, reflective of the sentiments of all of the respondents, less than half (47%) of respondents with COPD or other respiratory illnesses were extremely concerned or moderately concerned about getting COVID-19. 

Patients Have Delayed Seeing a Doctor during COVID-19

About half of the respondents (44%) said that they had delayed or not gone to see a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare providers during this COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, this percentage was higher in respondents with cardiovascular disease, COPD, or other respiratory illnesses:

  • More than half of the respondents with atrial fibrillation or cardiovascular disease reported that they had delayed or not gone to see a doctor during this COVID pandemic (53%). Studies have found that patients have delayed seeing a doctor, resulting in more at-home heart attacks and delayed ED visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such delays are particularly significant for patients with atrial fibrillation or other cardiovascular diseases because such patients are at a higher risk of a heart attack.
  • Similarly, more than half of the respondents with COPD or other respiratory illnesses also reported that they had delayed or not gone to see a doctor during this COVID pandemic (51%).

These survey results echo researchers’ findings that more than 40% of US adults skipped medical care since COVID-19.

Additionally, more than half of the respondents reported that their family members (52%) had delayed or not gone to see a doctor during the COVID pandemic and more than a third of the respondents reported that they knew someone who had delayed or not gone to see a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare providers (35%).

To view our complete report on the survey, please click here.

 

Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

How Chiropractors Can Ensure Patient’s Safety Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this guest post, Dr. Brent Wells, DC discusses what chiropractic clinics and patients should do as clinics begin to open up after COVID-19. Dr. Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years.

By Brent Wells, DC (Better Health Chiropractic)

As chiropractic clinics start to open back up, many patients might feel a bit hesitant to make an appointment. How will the clinic protect them? What steps are chiropractors using to keep things safe? Below are some ways that chiropractors can ensure patient safety amid this troubling pandemic. 

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Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

3 Myths about Wearing Masks

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

Research has demonstrated that early adoption of wearing face masks slowed COVID infections –  “Countries with early interest in face mask use had milder COVID-19 infection rates, according to a letter-to-the-editor published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.”

Myth #1 – COVID Doesn’t Exist, So What’s There to Worry About?

In March 2020, PolitiFact debunked a Facebook post with 8,000 shares claiming that “there is no virus.” PolitiFact is a non-partisan fact-checking website that checks the accuracy of claims and after reviewing Facebook posts denying the existence of COVID-19, PolitiFact concluded “Facebook users are claiming there ‘is no’ coronavirus. That’s ridiculously wrong.”

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Blood Clots, Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

Questions We’d Love to Answer on Virtual Patient Care, but Can’t

By Michael Wong (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety), Lynn G. Razzano, RN, MSN, ONC, CMSRN (Clinical Nurse Consultant, PPAHS), and Thereza B. Ayad, RN, MSN, DNP, CNOR (Clinical Nurse Consultant, PPAHS)

Virtual Patient Care Launched to Help Patients

We started Virtual Patient Care to help patients during the current COVID pandemic. Helping patients is what motivated BMS-Pfizer Alliance to provide us with grant support. Helping patients is why the American Heart Association, AC Forum, Heart Rhythm Society, StopAfib.org, Mended Hearts, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association have provided such great support and help for Virtual Patient Care. To read the press release on Virtual Patient Care, click here.

Since we launched Virtual Patient Care, we have received many questions from patients asking us to diagnose their ailments or asking us to explain why a certain treatment or medication isn’t curing them.

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Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

Exercising During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Editor’s note: Keeping physically active has a great many benefits and, during the current COVID-19 situation, physical activity is recommended for emotional and mental health, as well as to boost your immune system. However, as everyone’s different, please speak with your doctor about finding the right level of fitness activity for you. 

By Michael Wong (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety), Lynn G. Razzano, RN, MSN, ONC, CMSRN (Clinical Nurse Consultant, PPAHS), and Thereza B. Ayad, RN, MSN, DNP, CNOR (Clinical Nurse Consultant, PPAHS)

One of the questions we’ve received on the chat line and which we’d like to share the answer to is about exercising during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is a question that many have probably asked themselves.

There are many benefits to staying physically active, particularly following surgery. However, during the current COVID-19 circumstances that require social distancing and have necessitated the closure of facilities – particularly gyms, pools, and parks – staying physically active can be especially challenging.

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Blood Clots, Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

COVID-19 Patients Are at a Greater Risk of Blood Clots

Editor’s note: Our understanding of COVID-19 symptomatology is evolving as the current pandemic unfolds. The International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis has collected a number of studies and case reports on thrombosis in COVID-19 patients. The Journal of American College of Cardiology released a review of current understanding, citing many of the studies and case reports which are on the ISTH site. This COVID-19 pandemic challenges us to use current knowledge and innovate new approaches to care for patients diagnosed with COVID-19. This article seeks to summarize some of the current knowledge about thrombosis in COVID-19 patients, knowing that future studies and case reports will undoubtedly refine the statements made below. However, this is science, continually evolving and improving based on current understanding. With that, this article offers some insights about VTE in patients admitted to the hospital who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

By Michael Wong (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety), Laurie Paletz, BSN PHN RN BC SCRN (Manager, Stroke Program Department of Neurology, Cedars-Sinai), and Thereza B. Ayad, RN, MSN, DNP, CNOR (Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical School-Graduate School of Nursing; Surgical Services Clinical Staff Educator, North Shore Medical Center)

(reviewed by Sue Koob, MPA, Chief Executive Officer, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association and Pat Salber, MD, MBA, Editor-in-Chief, DoctorWeighsIn)

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Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

Going to the Dentist in this COVID-19 Era

Editor’s note: As many states look to “re-open,” some of us may be looking to do what might have been put off during the last few weeks of COVID-19 isolation – such as, going to the dentist. T help Michael Wong, JD (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety) interviewed Bradley T. Truax, MD about what precautions dentists and their patients should consider.

By Michael Wong, JD (Founder/Executive Director, Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety)

As many states look to “re-open,” some of us may be looking to do what might have been put off during the last few weeks of COVID-19 isolation – such as, going to the dentist.

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Blood Clots, Patient Safety, Practices & Tips

Great COVID-19 Advice and Resources from Our Cardiovascular Partners

If you have questions, the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety launched a free online service (the CV Virtual Clinic) where patients can speak with experienced registered nurses and get personalized answers to their questions. 

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