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The importance of secure identity management in the telehealth sector is now higher than ever before as telehealth itself witnessed a massive surge of interest recently. As more patients and providers plan to augment traditional care models by systematically leveraging telehealth for care delivery, the healthcare sector realizes it must invest strategically in telehealth platforms to facilitate this shift. With more people involved in the value chain for delivering a digital service, the security of critical data and information becomes the next focal point of discussion.

Telehealth seems to be increasingly preferred by consumers as well as providers. A recent survey of over 1600 healthcare providers showed that nearly 70% are now in favour of delivering care through telehealth platforms thanks to the positive response and experience they enjoyed during the Covid19 pandemic.

However, according to some studies the healthcare sector witnesses a loss of $41 billion a year due to medical identity theft. With adoption of telemedicine where 100% interactions are virtual, identity theft is going to play a curial role. Telemedicine app development companies will need to have identity management solutions embedded within their platforms.

Telehealth and telemedicine systems work well when providers are able to connect patients with the appropriate specialist along with the relevant data and medical records. Given the sensitivity of the data, there is absolutely no room for error on the security aspects of the entire process. This focus on security must spill over onto the platform the provider uses, as well as the larger digital ecosystem to which the solution connects for efficient information exchange. Different care providers use different cloud or on-premises telehealth solutions to capture patient data and offer consulting services. This scenario can also create challenges when the patient data must be accessed by different providers for different cases. The number of endpoints increases, creating more opportunities for security threats to enter as the surface area for potential attacks increases.

Identity management is seen as an answer to this crucial challenge. To put it simply, with identity management, providers can ensure that care is delivered to the right recipient and the right recipient is the person they claim to be.

So how can identity management make the telehealth system more secure? Here are 3 ways:

1. Multi-factor Authentication

For any digital system, guarding the first and primary point of entry into the system is always the approach likely to yield the greatest “bang for the buck”. By enabling multi-factor authentication for entry into the telehealth platform, providers can ensure that customer credentials are verified not just with a username or email-driven password system, but also through added layers such as TFA verification through SMS sent on a registered phone number, or by leveraging QR code scanning or even through notifications for approval on dedicated mobile apps.

2. Controlled Access Management

Identity management deals not just with verifying the credentials of users. It also includes a broader spectrum of use cases where each role is identified in the ecosystem and data access is controlled or modified in formats necessary only for that individual role. Telemedicine platforms can implement Verifiable credentials to make patient data tamper-proof and its management completely hassle-free. Such solutions are of paramount importance as 56% of the breaches in medical identity theft are caused by internal employees. Verifiable credentials can validate identities without revealing any critical information.
For example, you can verify if the patient is actually prescribed a specific medicine by a certified doctor without revealing the identity of the doctor.

3. Video KYC Solutions (Face Detection, eKYC and Liveness Detection)

One of the proven solutions from banking and financial systems which can be easily implemented in telemedicine is the video KYC or AI enabled liveness detection and face detection. Liveness detection can be carried out by requesting random activities during the calls, thus preventing data theft by using fake identities. In addition, OCR and digital signature based solutions can allow providers to verify the documents instantly.
Here is an example on how vKYC would work.

Find out more about our vKYC solution

Identity Management is Critical for Interoperability

While patient healthcare data is sensitive, it is often required to be made available to systems from multiple vendors to ensure faster care delivery through tighter integration. These systems could be within a single provider’s landscape or they could be different systems from different vendors scattered across a patient’s care journey. When telehealth is involved, this scenario enters another level of complexity. Sensitive patient data needs to now be routed through one or more “other” systems which may be cloud-based or on-premises. This makes the data vulnerable as it progresses through the workflow. With identity management, it is possible to create trusted digital identities for all users in the telehealth system. This ensures that every access of data is assured for security, privacy, and traceability.

According to some studies, the healthcare sector witnesses 48% or nearly half of all consumer data breaches recorded annually. With increasing penalties from regulators and rising concerns of privacy from patients, healthcare providers need a robust, comprehensive, and strategic approach to securing all their digital channels. Identity management can play a key role in facilitating a secure experience for all stakeholders in the telehealth ecosystem even when multiple technology architectures and deployment methodologies are adopted by different stakeholders. It is a critical piece of the security puzzle in care delivery today.

Mandar Gadre| Director of Engineering – Healthcare & Manufacturing

Mandar Gadre serves as Director of Engineering – Healthcare & Manufacturing for GS Lab. Mandar holds B.Tech from IIT Bombay, and a Ph.D. in engineering from Arizona State University, USA. He brings deep expertise and experience in crafting industrial solutions, leading technology teams, while contributing technically to sensor technology, hardware and control solutions, and data analytics. Mandar has helped numerous organizations implement IIoT and delivered results that have shaped new business models for those organizations.

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