COVID-19 have taught the world a lot of lessons and has accelerated various innovations, including advancements in patient monitoring. The demand for remote patient monitoring increased due to the fact that the virus was airborne and easily transmittable.
Patients with underlying conditions are more vulnerable to the disease, can develop infection and need specialized care. Some have to receive care remotely in their own home or isolated facility for their safety. It also helps reduce healthcare practitioners’ exposure to the virus. Thus, remote patient monitoring solutions were rolled out fast.
Different devices and software solutions have been designed for specific patient monitoring use cases, including for cardiology, pulmonology and endocrinology. Some of the most common solutions use sensors to monitor temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, weight, glucose levels and other indicators. There are also remote patient monitoring solutions that aid in medication management.
However, remote patient monitoring means a healthcare provider digitally shares patient data. This is something very sensitive and can raise privacy and security concerns among patients and healthcare practitioners.
Privacy Concerns with Remote Patient Monitoring
As much as telehealth and remote patient monitoring solutions have been of great help in managing patients and delivering treatment, it also involves a lot of risks, especially when using home monitoring technologies.
Cyberattacks in healthcare often target data that includes patients’ protected health information (PHI). So, what is PHI and what makes it valuable? PHI contains sensitive and private information with high monetary and intelligence value, making it an ideal target of ransomware attacks.
It includes demographic information, medical background, laboratory results, mental health condition, and insurance and medical billing information. If handed to the wrong person, all this information can cost a person and institution money and reputation.
Patient monitoring apps and devices often contain PHI and are usually portable. It is also often connected via the internet to transmit data, which makes them a target for cyberattacks.
Unintended Information Sharing
Remotely operated devices for patient monitoring at home are considered to be in a less controlled environment. Home internet connections do not have the same level of cybersecurity features and measures that healthcare facilities implement. Therefore, it exposes patient data to higher risk.
Moreover, patient monitoring tools, especially mobile ones, are difficult to secure. There are risks of unintended sharing of information when someone unauthorized, access the device, even unintentionally.
There are data that some patients may not be comfortable sharing, even with household members. Still, controlling data flow, device access and information transfers can be difficult with remote patient monitoring solutions.
Data Gathered And Shared By Mobile Apps
With everything digital and mobile, even patient monitoring can be done through someone’s phone or using mobile tablets across healthcare institutions. Apps in these devices may have a high risk of unintentionally sharing users’ data with other providers with or without the patient’s consent.
Some apps used today can gather data from other apps, so it is important to secure the patient monitoring app, the permission provided to other apps, and the amount of data you allow them access to.
Managing Privacy Threats to Healthcare Data
Remote patient monitoring has the potential to revolutionize healthcare. It has a lot of benefits, from streamlining patient triage and monitoring processes to speeding up the delivery of care and treatment. To maximize its benefits, implementing digital solutions in healthcare must come with comprehensive efforts to secure healthcare data. Here are some ways you can manage threats and minimize risks:
Use Highly Secure Networks And Systems
As the healthcare industry adopts digitalization, deploying systems and maintaining networks with the highest security measures is imperative. Invest in and maintain modern and secured networks and patient management and electronic health records (EHR) systems. Your network and primary data management systems are the backbone of your cybersecurity. Securing this can help you ensure that PHI is stored safely, even when used or accessed remotely.
Strengthen Endpoint Security
Most IT teams and institutions focus on strengthening network security to avoid specific threats, leaving endpoints open or not visible. This can give cyber attackers an easy access point.
Endpoints are all devices that are used to receive or transmit data, like laptops, mobile phones, medical devices and sensors, printers, servers and other tools. These devices, no matter how small or mundane to providing patient care, can compromise data security. Implement a more holistic approach by covering all ends.
There are various end-point security solutions for healthcare that can be implemented, like endpoint protection platform (EPP), endpoint detection and remediation (EDR), and extended detection and response (XDR). These tools can cover file monitoring, virus detection and active monitoring of activities within endpoints, which provides complete threat visibility.
Utilize BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device)
BYOD or Bring-Your-Own-Device is an approach where individuals must provide and use their own device to connect and communicate with the institution or organization. This approach has effectively optimized the information sharing and data collection process in healthcare. The BYOD approach is faster and can be safer for patients.
More so, practitioners can also adopt the BYOD approach. Using their own device can help them keep it more secure. The BYOD and the implementation of secure messaging protocols can streamline daily operations and communication for everyone in healthcare facilities, such as practitioners, lab workers and patients.
Implement Zero Trust Security
The zero trust security model pertains to the general approach in cybersecurity, where measures must be implemented without trusting anything inside or outside an organization’s network. All incoming and outgoing data must be checked, scanned and tested for any threats. This is highly ideal for protecting patient data, as it employs a holistic approach and can cover remote devices and tools for patient monitoring.
Data Security Is Key
Remote patient monitoring helps spread the reach of healthcare and speed up the delivery of care. It makes the industry flexible and enables it to adapt to varying patients’ needs. Like any innovation in the technology sector, it has risks and can raise concerns.
But with proper implementation of new and more secured systems and tech architecture, efficient ways can enable the healthcare industry to leverage and maximize tools like remote monitoring solutions and telehealth platforms while keeping patient data safe and secured.