Increase in Cyber Security Breaches Poses Risk to Advancement of Healthcare Technology, Telehealth
TeleQuality Communications Engineer Jared Alfson Identifies Barriers and Solutions at Alabama Healthcare Conference
Mobile, AL (Sept. 22, 2016) — "The exponential increase in cyber security breaches, ransom and hacking incidents to the healthcare industry over the past decade poses incredible financial, regulatory and administrative burdens on healthcare providers and threatens the deployment of advanced healthcare technologies such as telehealth and telemedicine," Jared Alfson, Health IT Engineer of San Antonio-based TeleQuality Communications Inc. and its Rural Health Telecom℠ division, told health care providers, academics, county and community health professionals, and administrators at the Alabama Primary Health Care Association (APHCA)’s Annual Conference and Tradeshow here Sept. 22.
Alfson highlighted cyber security trends in an overall presentation on “The Telehealth Framework”, a telehealth implementation model for healthcare providers that covers three critical components: telecommunications services infrastructure, medical and IT tools and clinical services.
“In regard to the medical and IT tools portion of the telehealth framework, healthcare providers must be proactive in monitoring and protecting their local and wide-area networks against these sophisticated hackers,” Alfson said. “Many healthcare providers make the common mistake thinking that meeting requirements for HIPAA compliance will protect them; however, compliance does not equal security in the realm of health IT.”
An HHS Office for Civil Rights report, stated that since 2009 over 165 million individuals have been affected by breaches in the healthcare industry, with 75 percent of those breaches resulting from a hacking and/or IT incident. Constant network monitoring and proactive support for your health networks, either through internal IT departments or external IT vendors, are the best defense against cyber threats, Alfson said.
In addition to cyber security, Alfson covered the importance of having a robust, redundant telecommunications network and infrastructure to support all health IT and telehealth endeavors.
“Telemedicine applications such as video conferencing and store and forward have high bandwidth and networking requirements for success; therefore, a full-scale report of the state of your infrastructure is essential to any telemedicine analysis,” he said.
Other factors that can influence the adoption of telehealth include the state-specific legislative and regulatory environment including Medicaid and private insurance reimbursement rates for telehealth services, state licensing practices and more, Alfson said.
Every year the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) publishes a report that reviews and compares physician practice standards and licensure for telemedicine. In their most recent report, Alabama received the lowest composite score out of all 50 states.
“Clearly the ATA report suggests the state of Alabama has room for improvement on making telehealth adoption easier and cost-effective for healthcare providers,” Alfson said. “With help and pressure from healthcare providers, business partners, local community leaders, politicians and more, we hope that financial, legal and regulatory support for each component of the telehealth framework grows and that Alabama quickly becomes the next state leading the conversation in telehealth patient care.”
About TeleQuality Communications, Inc. (TQCI)
TeleQuality Communications Inc. (TQCI) is a leading provider of quality telecommunications and technology products and solutions to rural healthcare facilities. Since 1999, TQCI and its division, Rural Health Telecom℠, have been designing and supplying organizations with cost-effective, custom network solutions to connect multiple business locations to each other, business partners and the internet. TeleQuality’s technology solutions enable healthcare providers to take advantage of emerging healthcare technologies that increase access and lower the cost of healthcare. For more information, please visit www.telequality.com.