The Rising Importance of Cybersecurity in Telehealth

The Rising Importance of Cybersecurity in Telehealth


It’s safe to say that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people didn’t know what telehealth was, but these days it has become a practice that it is here to stay. That’s because so far in 2024, there are reportedly already over 116 million users of online doctor consultations throughout the world.  That number is expected to increase in the coming years as well, since telehealth has been on the incline ever since it exploded in users in 2020 and 2021.  

For those unfamiliar with telehealth, it is the use of telecommunication for the delivery of healthcare services. In more basic terms, it is when a patient speaks with a doctor or nurse over an internet video conference platform, like Zoom, or over the phone. Unsurprisingly, it became an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was critical to social distance and protect the most vulnerable individuals from physically gathering in healthcare settings where the virus could easily spread. Since the pandemic, studies have shown that patients have gotten used to the convenience of telemedicine, as did physicians and other healthcare professionals who have been able to see more patients. 

Of course, with the implementation of telehealth, comes the increase cybersecurity risks considering that appointments happen over the phone or internet. Unlike in-person visits, those channels increase the chances of hackers compromising sensitive patient data. In 2022, a study found that 46% of patients had turned to online doctor visits in 2020, and since then, over 29 million records were estimated to have been compromised on an annual basis. With that said, the growing importance of cybersecurity in telehealth and the need for robust security measures has become more obvious. In this blog, we’ll break down the threats to telehealth as it continues to grow, as well as the importance of cybersecurity and best practices to securing patient data, including partnering with an MSP, like Charles IT.  

The Growth of Telehealth

Advancements in technology have been key drivers in the growth of telehealth, transforming how healthcare is delivered and accessed. Several technological innovations have played a crucial role in enabling telehealth, making it more efficient, accessible, and effective. This includes the widespread availability of high-speed internet and broadband, which creates reliable internet connections for remote video consultations. This also relates to advancements made in video conferencing tools, which have allowed those consultations to be interactive, like an in-person visit.  

Of course, there is the proliferation of smartphones and mobile technology, such as the MyChart mobile app, which allows patients to access their healthcare services on the go, as well as make appointments, receive reminders, and conduct their virtual consultations.  Wearable devices and remote monitoring tools like a smartwatch for instance, can also now track vital signs and health metrics, which can even be sent to healthcare providers in real time. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning how artificial intelligence and machine learning has benefited telehealth since chatbots can now assist with preliminary assessments and triage, while machine learning algorithms can analyze health data to identify patterns and predict health outcomes. 

What was the role of COVID-19 in accelerating telehealth adoption? 

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of telehealth as a solution for providing care while minimizing the risk of transiting the virus. Several factors contributed to this shift such as:  

  1. Social Distancing and Lockdown Measures: Healthcare providers and patients turned to telehealth as a safe and effective way to continue medical consultations and treatments without physical contact. 
  2. Regulatory Changes and Reimbursement Policies: Governments and health agencies relaxed restrictions and expanded coverage for telehealth services, allowing more providers to offer virtual care and ensuring that patients could access these services without financial barriers. 
  3. Increased Demand for Mental Health Services: The pandemic led to a surge in mental health issues, so telehealth became a vital tool for enabling patients to receive counseling and support from the safety of their homes. 
  4. Innovation and Investment in Telehealth Solutions: Technology companies and healthcare providers rapidly developed and deployed telehealth platforms, enhancing their capabilities to meet the growing demand. 
  5. 5. Patient and Provider Acceptance: Many patients who were initially hesitant to use telehealth quickly realized its convenience and effectiveness. Similarly, healthcare providers recognized its potential to reach more patients and improve health outcomes. 
  6. Addressing Healthcare Access Disparities: The pandemic highlighted existing disparities, particularly in rural and underserved communities. Telehealth provides remote access to healthcare services for individuals who might otherwise face barriers.

What are the Benefits of Telehealth? 

Telehealth offers numerous benefits. Its convenience allows patients to receive medical consultations and treatments from the comfort of their homes, eliminating the need for travel and reducing waiting times. Telehealth also enhances accessibility, especially for individuals in rural or underserved areas who might otherwise struggle to access healthcare services.  

Also, telehealth is cost-effective, reducing healthcare expenses by minimizing the need for physical infrastructure and enabling efficient resource utilization, ultimately leading to lower costs for patients and providers. 

Cybersecurity Threats in Telehealth

While telehealth offers convenience and accessibility, it has also introduced new cybersecurity challenges. Understanding the types of cyber threats specific to telehealth is crucial for protecting sensitive patient information. Here are four major cyber threats in telehealth: 

  1. Phishing Attacks: This involves cybercriminals sending deceptive emails or messages that appear to be from legitimate healthcare providers or telehealth platforms. These messages often contain malicious links or attachments designed to steal sensitive information such as login credentials, personal details, or financial data.
  2. Ransomware: This involves malicious software encrypting data on healthcare providers' devices, making telehealth systems and patient records inaccessible until a ransom is paid. Ransomware attacks can severely disrupt telehealth services.
  3. Data Breaches: This occurs when unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive patient data stored on telehealth platforms. The stolen data can include personal identification information, medical history, and financial details.
  4. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks: This involves overwhelming telehealth platforms with a flood of internet traffic, causing them to slow down or crash. These attacks can disrupt telehealth services, making it difficult for patients to access care.

Overall, patients may face privacy violations, health risks due to delayed or inaccessible care, and financial losses from identity theft and fraud. For healthcare providers, these attacks can cause significant operational disruptions, lead to high recovery costs, and result in reputational damage. Providers may also face legal and regulatory penalties for failing to protect patient data. 

Importance of Cybersecurity in Telehealth

As telehealth becomes an integral part of healthcare, ensuring robust cybersecurity is key or protecting patient data, complying with regulations, and building trust in these services. The following are reasons why cybersecurity in important:  

Protecting Patient Data

Patient data in telehealth includes highly sensitive information such as medical history, personal identification details, and financial information. Any breach can lead to severe consequences, including identity theft, financial fraud, and erosion of patient trust.  

Regulatory Compliance

Several regulations govern the security of telehealth services, mandating strict protocols to protect patient information. Key regulations include: 

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): U.S. regulation that mandates the protection and confidential handling of protected health information (PHI). 
  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): European regulation that governs the privacy and security of personal data, including health information. 
  • HITRUST (Health Information Trust Alliance): Provides a certifiable framework that helps healthcare organizations manage data protection and compliance. 
  • HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act): Promotes the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology, reinforcing HIPAA requirements. 
  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology): Provides guidelines and standards for improving cybersecurity in healthcare, including telehealth. 
Building Trust

For telehealth to be effective, patients must trust that their sensitive information is secure and that their privacy is respected. When patients are confident that their data is protected, they are more likely to engage with telehealth services and share necessary information openly with healthcare providers. This trust enhances the patient-provider relationship, improving the overall quality of care and patient satisfaction.  

Best Practices for Cybersecurity in Telehealth

At this point, it’s clear why it’s important to have strong cybersecurity when it comes to telehealth, but what should you do to ensure your patient data is protected? The following are best practices: 

  • Data Encryption:  Encryption is a fundamental security measure that protects data by converting it into a coded format that can only be accessed by authorized users with the decryption key. For telehealth services, data must be encrypted both in transit and at rest. 
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) enhances security by requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to telehealth systems. Healthcare providers should implement MFA for all access points to telehealth platforms. 
  • Regular Security Audits: Regular security audits are essential for identifying vulnerabilities and ensuring compliance with security standards and regulations. These audits involve a comprehensive evaluation of the telehealth system’s security infrastructure and practices. 
  • Employee Training: Human error is a significant factor in many cybersecurity incidents. Therefore, educating staff about cybersecurity awareness is critical for preventing breaches and ensuring the security of telehealth services. 
  • Secure Telehealth Platforms: Selecting a secure telehealth platform is fundamental to protecting patient data and ensuring the reliability of telehealth services. Providers should carefully evaluate telehealth platforms based on their security features and compliance with industry standards. 

Role of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) in Telehealth Cybersecurity

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) offer a wide range of security services that cover all aspects of telehealth cybersecurity. They deploy endpoint protection to safeguard devices, implement network security measures like firewalls and VPNs, and ensure data encryption both in transit and at rest. Additionally, MSPs manage identity and access control, ensuring only authorized personnel can access telehealth systems. These comprehensive solutions help create a secure and compliant environment for telehealth services. 

Cyber threats can occur at any time, and continuous monitoring is also essential for early detection and rapid response. MSPs offer round-the-clock monitoring and support to ensure the ongoing security of telehealth services. To break this down:  

  • 24/7 Monitoring: MSPs use advanced monitoring tools to continuously track network activity, detect anomalies, and identify potential threats in real-time.  
  • Incident Response: In the event of a security breach or cyberattack, MSPs provide immediate incident response services to contain the threat, minimize damage, and restore normal operations as quickly as possible. 
  • Threat Intelligence: MSPs leverage threat intelligence to stay updated on the latest cyber threats and vulnerabilities.  
  • Support Services: MSPs offer comprehensive support services, including helpdesk support, to address any security-related issues and ensure that telehealth systems remain secure and operational. 

Telehealth providers also benefit from the specialized expertise and resources that MSPs bring. MSPs have cybersecurity professionals with the knowledge to protect healthcare IT systems and access to advanced security tools. They ensure compliance with regulations like HIPAA and GDPR, helping providers avoid legal penalties. By partnering with MSPs, telehealth providers can scale their security measures as they grow, ensuring continuous protection. 


As telehealth continues to grow, so does the need for robust cybersecurity measures. Prioritizing cybersecurity in your telehealth practice is essential to protect sensitive patient information, comply with regulations, and build trust with your patients. Implementing best practices and leveraging the expertise of MSPs can significantly enhance your telehealth security posture, ensuring the safe and effective delivery of healthcare services. 

Charles IT is here to help you navigate the complexities of telehealth cybersecurity. Our team of experts provides security solutions tailored to the unique needs of telehealth providers. From data encryption and multi-factor authentication to continuous monitoring and regulatory compliance, we have the tools and expertise to protect your telehealth services.  

Schedule a call with Charles IT today to learn more about how we can help secure your telehealth practice and ensure the confidentiality of your patient data. 

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