Keeping Telehealth Data Secure

Continua Leader Offers E-Health Security Tips
As more consumers take advantage of mobile devices for telemedicine, they need to be educated on steps to take to help ensure that their medical information remains secure, says telehealth expert Chuck Parker.

Telehealth applications, which run on a wide variety of mobile devices, enable, for example, the monitoring of the chronically ill, the sharing of wellness information and the connection of patients in remote areas to specialty care providers.

Many steps, including the use of encryption, must be taken to ensure that any data transmitted remains secure, says Parker, executive director at Continua Health Alliance. The consortium of vendors and healthcare providers develops guidelines and standards for interoperable personal health devices.

In addition to using appropriate security technologies, patient education is essential to maintaining the privacy of healthcare information transmitted via telehealth applications, Parker says in an interview. "The social side of training individuals is the biggest gap we see," he says.

In the interview, Parker also:

  • Describes Continua's efforts to offer guidance on the use of encryption for telehealth devices.
  • Explains several steps patients should take to protect their privacy, such as logging out of applications that are not in use.
  • Outlines steps software and device vendors should consider taking to improve the security of telehealth applications. "There needs to be a basic level of security though application developers," he says.
  • Reacts to a recent report calling for the Food and Drug Administration to track security and privacy problems in medical devices (see: Medical Device Security Info Lacking). "It's unclear if they're the regulatory authority to actually manage security and privacy aspects ..." he says.
  • In his role at Continua Health Alliance, Parker leads many standards workgroups. Before joining Continua three years ago, Parker was chief technology officer and vice president of business development and marketing at Masspro, a performance improvement organization founded by the Massachusetts Medical Society, which publishes the New England Journal of Medicine. Earlier, he was national lead for Internet technologies, at VHA, Inc., a healthcare alliance.




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