Medigate: How to ensure the secure adoption of telehealth
Healthcare providers in the US are set to receive $249.95 million in federal funding in the second round of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, building on the initial $200 million granted as part of the CARES Act.
As providers ramp up their telehealth usage to take advantage of the funds, ensuring their systems and data remain secure will be crucial. Jonathan Langer is the CEO of Medigate, creators of a dedicated security platform that identifies and protects all Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) devices. Langer's team has been working with healthcare organisations around the US, helping them develop a roadmap for the next stage of the telehealth programme.
Langer explains that in the rush to create new processes for remote patient care during the pandemic, many providers didn't have security programmes in place before launching their telehealth services.
"The onset of COVID and new regulations have led to an explosion in the types of devices being used to facilitate patient care– both for telehealth and remote patient monitoring services" he says. "We’re now seeing increased connectivity and transfer of critical information across a variety of networks, which has in turn created a wider net that needs to be protected and secured.
"This is why device visibility is so imperative– you can’t protect what you don’t know about. And further, you can’t use devices if you’re not aware of their location or availability. To have a truly secure view of their devices, they must adopt technology that not only shows the devices on their network, but their security levels, locations and other critical information. It’s not just about visibility, but having access to actionable information that will allow them to make better care, security, and operational decisions."
Understanding the IoT ecosystem
By understanding their IoT ecosystem and how devices are behaving on their networks, providers can ensure patient data is kept safe. "When a doctor is using a tablet or smartphone to conduct a telehealth call, the network might simply see this as a device operating in its normal capacity and treat it as such– however, in reality, these endpoints are now transmitting extremely sensitive information that must be protected and assessed as risky" Langer says.
"While there are a variety of protocols you can install once you have this information (such as zero trust and segmentation controls), the first step is identifying the difference between device activity and understanding how they’re actually operating on your network."
To enable this, it's vital that all levels of hospital and health networks work together, especially as remote care has become an essential part of healthcare over the last year. Langer predicts this will accelerate over the next few years. "The role of technology cannot be understated, but more than that, we must also take a critical look at the latest trends and consider– how will this better help our clinicians and patients?" he says.
"Also, are we equipped to do this in a safe and secure manner? In doing so, we can continue to facilitate innovation and groundbreaking success, but also, layer the groundwork to ensure these initiatives are truly creating a more sustainable and productive healthcare ecosystem."
Zoom enters the healthcare market - a timeline
Since the pandemic began Zoom has become an integral part of daily life for people working from home, as well as a vital tool for families and friends to communicate. However it's also been eyeing up the healthcare space since 2017, and following the boom in telehealth the company has been rolling out additional services. Here we chart Zoom's move into healthcare.
2011 - 2013
Zoom is founded in San Jose, California, by Eric Yuan, formerly of Cisco. He got the idea to create a video calling platform from his visits to his girlfriend while he was a student, which would take 10 hours by train.
A beta version is released in 2012, which can host up to 15 participants. In 2013 this rises to 25. By mid-2013, Zoom has 1 million users.
2014 - 2017
Zoom attracts investors, including Sequoia Capital, Emergence and Horizon Ventures. By January 2017, Zoom has a series D funding worth $100 million.
2017 - 2019
Zoom for Telehealth launches, including an integration with EHR system Epic. It has cloud-based video, audio, and content sharing features, a "waiting room" for patients, and can easily be integrated into healthcare provider's workflows.
In 2019 Zoom goes public, with its IPO rising 72% in one day.
As a result of the pandemic, Zoom gains 2.2 million new users, more than in the whole of 2019. On the 23rd of March alone - the day the UK lockdown was announced - the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world.
Share prices rise to around $150, and founder and chief executive Eric Yuan becomes one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion.
Early security issues are addressed by encrypting data with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). By now the the platform allows 99 people to be on a call simultaneously
New features launch, including Zoom Home and Zoom for Chats. Throughout the year the platform is used to replace most kinds of real life events: work meetings, online classrooms, church services and social events.
Renamed Zoom for Healthcare, users can share secured video, audio, and content through desktops, mobile phones, and conference devices. As well as Epic, it can be integrated with Strmr, IntakeQ, and Practice Better.
It can also be used with diagnostic cameras and other point-of-care devices, including digital stethoscopes.
In an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, Zoom Global Healthcare Lead Ron Emerson said: "Our service is not simply a virtual care and telemedicine platform but a multi-purpose platform that can satisfy the needs of healthcare institutions."
"It can be used for administrative tasks, including telemedicine, medical team meetings, recruitment, medical education, employee training, and disease prevention. Analysing electronic records managed by Zoom could provide meaningful insights into patient care."
Phoenix Children's Hospital, Belfast's Hospital Services Limited, Butler Health Services and the global Project ECHO are among Zoom for Healthcare's current customers.