Kaspersky Study: Telemedicine patient data at risk

Almost a quarter of patient data at telemedicine sessions is compromised. This is the conclusion of a study by security specialist Kaspersky. […]

Anyone who consults a doctor via the 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 their employees have compromised personal patient data remotely during diagnostics.

In addition, almost over a third of providers (36 percent) believe that their medical staff does not know exactly how patients’ data should be protected. This result also leads directly to the heart of the problem. According to Kaspersky, data breaches are not always due to external actors. Often, sensitive information can also be compromised by internal personnel.

The study also shows that only 26 percent of health care providers in Europe are sure that the majority of their medical-consulting staff knows how to protect their patients’ data during remote treatments. 67 Percent of European healthcare institutions conduct special training courses on IT security awareness. These figures could be taken as an indicator that many of the cybersecurity training courses conducted do not have the realism necessary to provide medical staff with the cybersecurity skills they need, the study authors speculate.

Medical consultation via WhatsApp

In fact, the study authors came across adventurous practices. They found that more than a third of those surveyed in Europe (36 percent) admitted that their medical staff sometimes offers remote sessions using apps that were not specifically developed for telemedicine – such as FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Zoom.

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, stresses. “Telemedicine applications are specially designed and certified for the protection of sensitive personal data. Anyone who circumvents this high level of protection risks losing trust, legal consequences and high fines, “says Zeggel. “Anyone who uses inadmissible tools could also violate telemedicine billing regulations and miss functions such as the integration of patient files or the secure exchange of vital data,” he adds.

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

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

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

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