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

 

Patient Safety, Physician-Patient Relationship

Building a Better Virtual Patient Care Website


UPDATE: December 8, 2020

We are pleased to announce the launch of the new Virtual Patient Care website and chat line.

We hope that you’ll like the new streamlined look and resources.


We apologize for the inconvenience and unavailability of the Virtual Patient Care website.

We are building a better website to help better serve our patients.

Source: medical video visits by Bold Yellow from the Noun Project

 

 

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? 

Read More