Telehealth brings massive gains but privacy concerns linger

The beauty of this transformation is that, aside from the convenience of getting the kind of healthcare you need at the comfort of your home, it also significantly cut costs, a crucial factor for poor households most of who are found in Africa.

Technology has disrupted the medical world in fundamental ways bringing substantial benefits.  At the touch of a button patients can consult experts located miles away and instantly get specialised attention.

With the devastating effect of Covid-19 across the globe, most healthcare providers adopted or scaled up telemedicine and virtual care solutions, shows a new survey by cyber-security firm Kaspersky.

The study indicates that 53 percent of META organisations agree that most of their patients are more interested in remote than in-person sessions mainly because of their convenience.

 “According to our research, 67 percent of META respondents believe telehealth services will add the most value to the healthcare sector within the next five years,” notes the survey, adding that professionals agree that remote medicine is practical and attractive in many ways, with advantages such as immediate reach, less disease transmission between patients and staff, and the ability to help more people in a smaller time frame.

Other attractive telemedicine features for customers are that modern technologies save time, effort and money and easily provide the opportunity to connect and consult with a more experienced specialists.

The research found that 51 percent of patients who use digital platforms are under the age of 50, underlining the perception that old people avoid the modern ways of health provision.

The most popular service used by 67 percent of patients is synchronous telehealth such as real-time communication with patients, including video call or chat. The second most popular service across META is synchronous telehealth (44percent), followed by remote monitoring via wearable devices (41percent).

This method collects and stores patients’ data in a secure cloud-based platform for further use by a treating professional.

Despite telehealth bring immense benefits to patients and communities, there are downsides to the revolution.

According to the Kaspersky research, nearly nine out of ten healthcare organisations in META region provide telehealth services but 99 percent of patients have “trust issues” regarding their personal data privacy and security.

Out of the 86 percent of the healthcare facilities that deploy telehealth, 63 percent have witnessed cases where patients refused telehealth services due to security concerns.

Also, 84 percent of the respondents experienced cases win which patients have refused a video call with medical staff, with 63 percent reporting that people refused tele-health services due to privacy or data concerns. Other reasons cited included a general lack of trust towards telehealth (40percent), unwillingness to appear on video (55percent) and the absence of correct equipment (26percent).

 “Trust has always been important to the healthcare sector. But today, as more and more medical organisations rely on technology and digital offerings to support their services, patients also want to feel confident about the privacy of their medical data,” says Evgeniya Naumova, Executive Vice President, and Corporate Business, at Kaspersky, adding that this means the level of trust within the industry is “inextricably linked” to a provider’s ability to ensure the safety of the sensitive information they collect, share, and store.

“With rapid development and complexity making the healthcare industry more lucrative to malicious actors, now is the time for healthcare institutions to make cybersecurity their first priority.”

He added: “They should evaluate their current level of defense, and wisely adopt the appropriate solutions and tools. This way, they will build a brighter future where distance or cybersecurity risks won’t be a barrier and everyone can receive high-quality medical help. ”

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