Why Healthcare providers must consider cybersecurity for Telemedicine

Malaysia’s Telemedicine Blueprint, an initiative launched in July 1997 by the government to lead healthcare into the information age, is set to take off after 19 years, thanks to more affordable medical technology. It did not take off the way it was expected to as medical technology was pricey back then. We anticipate the government would re-look and revamped the healthcare system as technology gains momentum.


Telemedicine, described as “the use of technology to deliver healthcare services and information at a distance in order to improve access, quality and cost”, includes everything from videoconferencing and remote monitoring to telephone calls, email and texting. Technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will enable more precise and better service to the patients. The better user experience will likely enhance the profitability of current healthcare service providers. For example, good data recording and measurement can be done online in real time by the patients themselves, eliminating the need for the hospital to spend time doing the preliminary recording or measurement.


Healthcare costs, which have more than doubled in the last 50 years compromising healthcare access and delivery, is the key reason that Malaysians should embrace telemedicine. The effective use of ICT can reduce healthcare costs as well as increase its effectiveness, availability and affordability.


Physicians rely on their hardware, technology-mediated communication, and digital retrieval and storage of data while conducting a telemedicine consultation. Processing digital health data plays an increasingly important role in the healthcare industry, making the whole process more efficient – but also at risk of cyber threats. Even if the healthcare institute’s network is secure, the patient may be contacting their telemedicine physician from a non-secure one, such as their own mobile or connected devices. This has made data security extremely important in the telemedicine sector, as there are many different channels through which patients and doctors share data. Telemedicine services can instantly transfer data between patients and doctors, without the requirement of additional, extensive forms. If there are many people switching to telemedicine, healthcare practitioners now shoulder the added responsibility of securing all of their patient’s data. When patients connect to you via telemedicine, the variety of networks have no certainty of being secure. 


Hackers may use sensitive information to blackmail the healthcare provider or patient directly. These hackers can manipulate data, and their success will undermine the competency and reputation of the healthcare organisation and provider. Cyber-security experts may be able to protect medical institutions from hackers or targeted attacks, but it is difficult for many telemedicine providers to control outside patient activity. 


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