New Threat to Your Electronic Medical Records

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

A few months ago, I wrote about my latest concerns regarding our electronic medical records. It has always been my greatest hope that computers would make things better and easier for both healthcare professionals as well as patients to have our information in one place for easy access and update when available. But, if you are like me, you are finding that things have not only not improved but also they seem to have gotten progressively worse. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I have found a recent article that addresses the most recent problem that has resulted due to security concerns regarding Telehealth in our health care.

“With your information now being so readily accessible, it is really time to stop and think about all of these scenarios and decide whether you are ready and willing to take chances with the most important information that represents your health and your life.”Barbara Jacoby

The following quoted from the article immediately caught my attention:

“Recently The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance firm, published a report entitled “Your Patient is Logging on Now: The Risks and Benefits of Telehealth in the Future of Healthcare.” Among the five “foreseeable major risks” listed in the report: Telehealth “increases cyber liability, especially when providers are seeing patients from a variety of devices in a variety of locations.”

In other words, providers are now opening themselves up to cyberattacks on an unprecedented scale.

Cyberattacks seeking to steal patient data are not new to healthcare or telehealth. But prior to the pandemic, telehealth comprised only a small fraction of medical visits. Beginning in March, however, much of medicine suddenly shifted to the telehealth model, aided by the federal government’s temporary relaxation of HIPAA restrictions on telehealth. Many providers began conducting visits on unsecured lines at home.”

Further from the article, the following is quoted here:

Indeed, hackers have taken to dueling with healthcare providers running the telehealth visits. It is often an unfair fight; providers busy adjusting to and keeping up with telehealth appointments are often a step behind their attackers in preventing damage. “These are medical providers; they’re not expected to be IT specialists,” said Patricia Carreiro, JD, a cybersecurity and data privacy litigator with Carlton Fields in Miami.

This trend follows growing data security concerns within healthcare at large, including telehealth. Within the industry, more than 41 million patient records were breached last year, according to the patient care analytics firm Protenus, with reported hacking incidents up 48.6% over 2018.”

I understand that medical records have to be computerized and everything has to be coded in order to receive payments from insurance companies and the Federal government as well as to set up a program where electronic medical records can be shared with other doctors and hospitals. While all of this sounds so good for patient care, a closer look has already revealed many problems, just starting with the doctor’s inability to accurately provide their personal notes on a case, in words that will also get them the payments that they deserve.

But, there is hacking of all kinds of records now. Some hackers do it just to prove that they can do it but many others do it for profit. Can you imagine the impact of such hacking of medical records if hackers were able to gain access to medical information for company executives and prominent people in the news and entertainment? How would you feel if you knew that someone had gained access to your most personal information and they were now able to do with it as they wished? You might be blackmailed or someone may set out to ruin your future with the information that they have garnered. And how do you control with whom your information is shared? What if a group of doctors are working on some research and your records are shared among that group or are shared out to a larger group for profit?

With your information now being so readily accessible, it is really time to stop and think about all of these scenarios and decide whether you are ready and willing to take chances with the most important information that represents your health and your life. This is not shared with you to scare you about anything but rather to decide what you might want to do in order to preserve and protect your very private, personal information that is now shared and accessible to people that you would never have imagined. And with the new layer of concern arising from Telehealth expansion, you just might want to consider additional protection on your own devices in case they are ultimately hacked as well.