Telemedicine: patient data at risk

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Almost a quarter of patient data at telemedicine sessions is compromised. This is the result of a study by the security specialist Kaspersky.

Anyone who consults a doctor via a telemedicine app must be aware that their patient data could fall into the wrong hands. According to a study by the cybersecurity company Kaspersky, 24 percent of European healthcare providers have already experienced cases in which personal patient data has been compromised by their employees when making diagnoses remotely.

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Additionally, nearly a third of providers (36 percent) believe their healthcare workers are unsure about how patient data should be protected. This result also leads directly to the heart of the problem. According to Kaspersky, data protection violations are not always caused by external actors. Oftentimes, sensitive information can also be compromised by internal personnel.

The study also shows that only 26 percent of healthcare providers in Europe are confident that the majority of their medical consultant staff know how to protect their patients’ data when providing remote treatment. 67 percent of European healthcare facilities conduct special training courses on IT security awareness. These numbers could be taken as an indicator that many of the cybersecurity training courses conducted do not have the necessary realism to give medical staff the cybersecurity skills they need, the study authors suspect.

Medical consultation via WhatsApp

In fact, the study authors came across adventurous practices. They found that over a third of European respondents (36 percent) admitted that their medical staff sometimes offer remote sessions using apps not specifically designed for telemedicine – such as FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Zoom.

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However, the use of non-specialized apps in the health sector carries a risk, as Peter Zeggel, managing director of the German telemedicine provider Arztkonsultation.de, emphasizes. «Telemedical applications are specially designed and certified to protect sensitive personal data. Anyone who circumvents this high level of protection risks losing trust, legal consequences and high fines,” Zeggel points out. “Anyone who uses unauthorized tools could also violate telemedicine billing regulations and miss out on functions such as the integration of patient files or the secure exchange of vital signs,” he adds.

Data collection is an important part of the medicine of the future

Despite the security risks: Medical professionals believe that data collection is one of the most important aspects in the development of medical technology – despite the well-known difficulties with data security. More than half of those surveyed (53 percent) in Europe stated in the Kaspersky study that the industry needs to collect more personal data than it currently has in order to enrich the artificial intelligence (AI) used for this purpose with information and to provide a reliable to ensure diagnosis. Of course, this means healthcare providers need to step up their cybersecurity measures to prepare for a new era of digital medicine.

The study “Telehealth take-up: the risks and opportunities” can be downloaded from this link.





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