For telehealth to succeed, privacy and security risks must be identified and addressed

Health Aff (Millwood). 2014 Feb;33(2):216-21. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0997.


The success of telehealth could be undermined if serious privacy and security risks are not addressed. For example, sensors that are located in a patient's home or that interface with the patient's body to detect safety issues or medical emergencies may inadvertently transmit sensitive information about household activities. Similarly, routine data transmissions from an app or medical device, such as an insulin pump, may be shared with third-party advertisers. Without adequate security and privacy protections for underlying telehealth data and systems, providers and patients will lack trust in the use of telehealth solutions. Although some federal and state guidelines for telehealth security and privacy have been established, many gaps remain. No federal agency currently has authority to enact privacy and security requirements to cover the telehealth ecosystem. This article examines privacy risks and security threats to telehealth applications and summarizes the extent to which technical controls and federal law adequately address these risks. We argue for a comprehensive federal regulatory framework for telehealth, developed and enforced by a single federal entity, the Federal Trade Commission, to bolster trust and fully realize the benefits of telehealth.

Keywords: Consumer Issues; Home Care; Information Technology; Legal/Regulatory Issues; Medical technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Security / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Confidentiality / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Information Management / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Information Dissemination
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Needs Assessment
  • Privacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Quality Control
  • Risk
  • Telemedicine / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States