Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine visits increased by 50% in the first quarter of 2020. There are many advantages to telemedicine and virtual care – patients can see a doctor without the burden of travel, taking time off work, or the risk of being exposed to other illnesses. People who live in remote areas or have mobility issues can receive world-class care from experts without leaving their homes.
With the growth of telemedicine, there is growing concern around data privacy and security. Unfortunately, healthcare systems are already known targets of ransomware attacks. Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to increase your online security, and data privacy.
Read the Fine Print
When making your account with a telemedicine provider, you will be notified about what information is being tracked. It’s easy to gloss over the lengthy “Terms and Conditions”, but it’s important to find out what data is being collected, and where it goes. If you’re uncomfortable with something in the terms, speak with your provider about other options. You can sometimes control how data is shared and collected through settings on the platform. This can also be a red flag if you’re about to sign-up for a telemedicine scam!
Beware of Phish
Many phishing scams will disguise themselves as reputable telemedicine providers online. When searching for a virtual care provider, it’s best to get a reference from your existing care provider or someone you know to make sure you don’t get scammed. When opening emails from your provider, make sure it is from a legitimate email address, look for typos, and don’t provide any confidential information via email. Even over the phone, providers will ask you for certain information to confirm your identity, such as full name and date of birth. You should never be asked for any other personal information, such as a credit card or social security number.
Use a Secure Internet Connection
There are a lot of places to access free public WiFi, but when having confidential conversations about your health, we strongly recommend using a private WiFi connection to avoid having your personal medical data on a public server. To sure up a private WiFi connection, you can also use a virtual private network (VPN), which masks your online activity. Using the StartMeStick, a private computing device is a great option if you’re forced to use a public computer or just want a bit of extra security.
Create Tough-to-Crack Passwords
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of reusing passwords for multiple accounts or having the password just barely meet the character limits. Hackers count on this to gain access to multiple accounts! Make sure your passwords are as long and complex as it allows, you can use a password manager to create and save one for you – most browsers have one built-in. When it’s an option, always enable multi-factor authentication which uses multiple sources to confirm your identity when logging on to the platform.
Make Sure Your Devices Are Virus-Free
Before you share confidential information online, check that your computer is free of any viruses that could collect and share that information without your knowledge or consent. A great step is to first scan with the FixMeStick to remove any malware that could be lying deep in your hard drive. Then, installing an antivirus, such as McAfee, will block most viruses from entering your computer.
We hope these tips help you feel more secure for your next telemedicine visit. Let us know how you feel about telemedicine and how to keep your data private in the comments below!