One of the first questions many patients ask when they consider seeing their doctor via video using telemedicine software is, “Will the visit be secure and private?” This is a valid concern and one that your healthcare provider should take seriously. Here are some important things to know about privacy and security related to telemedicine.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed by Congress in 1996 to ensure that people can transfer and continue their health insurance coverage when they change jobs. It also created industry-wide standards for healthcare information on electronic billing and other processes.
One of the most important things that the Act did was to require the protection and secure handling of certain information, known as Protected Health Information. For example, your healthcare provider must have systems in place to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to your health information. This is true whether the information is on paper or in a computer system. HIPAA regulations also apply to any information transmitted over the internet, including video visits.
In order to comply with HIPAA and avoid stiff penalties and fines, your healthcare provider must use a telemedicine solution that meets HIPAA’s strict standards. Many telehealth solutions for video visits on the market today can meet the test.
You may think it would be easier to use an app like Facetime or Skype that you already know and love to chat with your doctor. However, these consumer grade applications are not built to protect confidential health information. Using them would put your privacy at risk, so they are best avoided for healthcare purposes.
What to Ask
You don’t need to be a cybersecurity expert, but it is smart to ask a few questions before your video visit. You want to know:
Does the solution have fully encrypted data transmission? Fully encrypted data transmission is the surest way to prevent unauthorized access to your information.
Is video stored? If no video is stored, there is no chance of someone other than the patient or provider viewing the encounter.
Your healthcare provider has much of the responsibility for ensuring that your privacy is protected during a video encounter, but you have a role to play as well. Make sure that you follow all of your provider’s instructions and take whatever security steps are suggested by the telemedicine application. Secure your mobile device with passwords or biometric identifiers. Finally, although you can do a video visit from almost anywhere, make sure you are in a place with sufficient privacy. It is best to find a room with a door that you can close so that you will have control over who can hear your conversation.
Privacy and security are important considerations when it comes to telehealth. Fortunately, there are great solutions on the market that make it possible for you to enjoy the convenience of remote medical care without giving up your right to privacy.