Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started, dentists have been turning to teledentistry as a solution to earn extra revenue, stay connected with their patients, and keep their offices running with current restrictions. However, the growing popularity of teledentistry has created a new problem: cybersecurity. The increasing instant of cyberattacks suggests that dental practices will need to devise a plan to combat this threat.
Cyber attacks could lead to severe consequences, such as additional expenses, legal charges, and a bad reputation for your practice. It’s alarming that many dentists don’t pay much attention to such issues, thinking that cybercriminals don’t target small practices. On the contrary, small dental practices are usually great targets for cyber attacks, since they hold a large amount of data, such as names, health histories, phone numbers, addresses, and banking information of patients.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to maintain the privacy of patient information and to have security measures to protect such information. Penalties for violation of the HIPAA could reach upward to $50,000 per violation. The financial consequences of cyberattacks are enormous. Thus, dental offices must have some data safeguarding guidelines when adopting teledentistry.
We have created a detailed guideline for practices to follow below. To reduce the risk of cyberattack, we advise practices to implement the following strategies:
Cybersecurity best practices
1. Avoid using social media as your teledentistry platform. Choose platforms and products with strong security and credibility. According to the ADA, practices SHOULD NOT USE public-facing technologies such as Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, etc. Some platforms that practices can use are Apple FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, and Zoom.
2. The most common cause of data breaches in healthcare organizations is losing stolen laptops, tablets, and phones. Practices need to use passwords to protect access to all computers, tablets, and phones at your office. Passwords should contain mixed-case letters and include numbers or symbols and should be changed regularly.
3. Every practice must create a patient data safeguarding policy. Additionally, offices need to educate and train staff members to comply with the office policy, ensuring that all members understand the consequences of data breaches.
4. All staff members should be prohibited from checking personal email accounts or visiting Internet sites that aren’t work-related.
5. Install antivirus software on all computers. Moreover, staff must update all software frequently. Cybercriminals frequently use known exploits or flaws in your software to gain access to your system. Patching those exploits and flaws will reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
6. Finally, have a separate wireless network for patients. Staff members must only use the office’s secure network when accessing the patient data system.
Dental practices could also look into cyber insurance providers and participate in their protection program.
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