Nearly everyone who recently used telehealth for mental health appointments wants to keep doing so, even as many express concerns about security

While the rise of telehealth’s popularity during the pandemic has revolutionized the healthcare industry, many people have concerns about the safety of their personal information and other security issues, according to a survey by healthcare technology pioneer DrFirst.

The survey of 1,000 Americans who had accessed mental health services in the previous year reveals that while telehealth is a popular option for patients, some people have concerns about the security of their sessions.

To help make telehealth services more available to patients to support social distancing efforts, in March 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services relaxed enforcement of security requirements related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). These changes allowed providers to conduct telehealth visits with non-healthcare applications that may not meet HIPAA’s strict security requirements.

Over a third of survey participants (35%) said they have had a telehealth appointment that did not meet HIPAA security requirements, and nearly all those (92%) shared concerns about security, including worries that:

  •           Their personal information will be compromised (43%)
  •           Their session will get hacked (35%)
  •           They will be connected to someone who is not a healthcare professional (14%)

“Even though the government relaxed enforcement for security rules early in the pandemic, healthcare

providers should take every possible step to protect patients’ sensitive information,” said Colin Banas, M.D., MSHA, chief medical officer for DrFirst. “Providers who are still using technology that doesn’t meet HIPAA requirements owe it to their patients to switch to a secure platform as a long-term solution.”

Three-quarters of respondents reported using telehealth for mental health appointments during the pandemic. For the 25% who did not use telehealth, reasons included personal preference (46%), not offered by their provider (30%), not having an appropriate device or connectivity (30%), and concerns about the session being hacked (14%).

DrFirst previously announced that 84% of survey respondents want to keep using telehealth moving forward. “Telehealth has proven its value to patients and providers alike, which is why it’s critical to stress the need to use secure platforms, so patients’ health information remains protected,” said Banas. DrFirst’s Backline, an award-winning care collaboration platform that includes telehealth, is fully HIPAA-compliant and is used by healthcare providers in all settings, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, mental health practices, and emergency medical services. Healthcare providers can also use Backline to securely text patients and other clinicians without requiring recipients to download an app or log on to a website; it also allows document sharing and e-signatures. The platform gives patients the ability to see their own physician or therapist and is user-friendly for people who are not tech-savvy or are unfamiliar with video conferencing.

Methodology

A national online survey of 1,004 U.S. consumers, ages 18 and over, was conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of DrFirst in May of 2021. Survey responses were nationally representative of the U.S. population for age, gender, region, and ethnicity. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

About DrFirst

Since 2000, DrFirst has pioneered healthcare technology solutions and consulting services that securely connect people at touchpoints of care to improve patient outcomes. We create unconventional solutions that solve care collaboration, medication management, price transparency, and adherence challenges faced in healthcare. We unite the Healthiverse—the interconnected healthcare universe—by providing our clients with real-time access to the information they need, exactly when and how they need it, so patients get the best care possible. DrFirst solutions are used by nearly 325,000 healthcare professionals, including more than 120,000 prescribers, 70,000 pharmacies, 275 HIS and EHRs, and 1,500 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more, visit www.DrFirst.com or follow @DrFirst.

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