Basic Physician’s Guide to Working From Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

Basic Physician’s Guide to Working From Home During COVID-19 Pandemic

Aug 11, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

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Following the basic physician’s guide to COVID-19, health professionals are now facing a new kind of work environment because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, many physicians are working from home and using technology to deliver medical health care. Fortunately, the current technology that we have allows every medical professional to do most of the things that they could do from their offices remotely at home.

With the use of telemedicine and the maximization of electronic health record (EHR) systems, it’s a huge step towards health care accessibility during the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are certain measures that physicians need to take to keep their work environment free from any potential cyber threats that would become a hindrance and disrupt your practice and negatively impact you and your patient’s well-being and safety.

The American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association have released reading resources to help physicians as the health care system transitions to telemedicine. Here are some of the key points when it comes to preventing and battling cybersecurity threats when it comes to health care:

Keeping Your Personal Computer Safe From Susceptible To Cyber Threats

Most likely, the main device that you’ll be using for your telemedicine is your personal computer (PC). It doesn’t matter what kind of device it is or what software it runs, you have to take into account the possible cyber threats that you might encounter especially with all the patient’s information and medical records on your PC.

Many medical organizations and institutions have been receiving reports of cybercriminals taking steps to infect computers and networks of physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic for the sake of stealing and holding medical records for ransom.

Here is a small checklist to keep your personal computer safe from viruses, malware, and hackers that pose a threat to information and confidentiality:

  • Accounts and Passwords. Have a strong password policy and build the habit of creating unique passwords with at least eight characters with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s also imperative that you don’t share your log-in information with anyone, regardless of your relation to them. When it comes to your PC, make it a habit to lock your computer when not in use and have it password-protected.
  • Web Browser. Make sure that you use a trusted and reliable browser for your computer (e.g. Google Chrome, Safari) and you have the most current version installed. Web browsers regularly provide updates to help combat cyber threats. Have the automatic update enabled if possible.
  • Anti-Virus Software. Investing in a reliable anti-virus software will help you prevent common viruses and malware from infiltrating your PC. Plus, they’re also up to date with the current virus profile so they’ll be able to remedy it without doing damage to your computer.

While your personal computer may have all the software it needs to prevent cybersecurity threats, it all boils down ultimately on how media literate you are. Being familiar with common cyber threats is helpful for you to determine what to do and not to do. Here are some of them:

  • Ransomware. This is a type of malicious software that will prevent you from accessing your own data through encryption until you paid the ransom to the hacker. However, paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee that they will unlock your stolen data. The Federal Bureau of Investigation highly discourages paying a ransom. Most ransomware attacks are sent through phishing links.
  • Email Phishing. Your e-mail is one of the most used digital avenues for your clinical works and therefore, should be one of your priorities in protecting. Email phishing is done when a hacker attempts to trick you into giving out confidential information by using clickbait. Most email phishing attempts are made by copying legitimate emails and embedding links throughout it. Having an anti-virus linked to your browser helps determine safe websites to visit and verify legitimate sites.

Maintaining Your Home Network Effective and Safe for Telemedicine

Telemedicine requires having a strong, stable network for it to be effective in delivering health care. While most people would only concern themselves with the speed of their Internet, you might want to take note of overlooked nuances to keep your information safe.

Multiple devices are hooked onto your network. Your personal computer, cellphone, printers, and even your security network are all interlinked into your network. The more devices hooked into your Internet, the more risks that any device could be cyber-attacked which will lead to compromising your entire network.

If you don’t live alone and you share your network with your family or friends, brief them into taking extra care of their own digital footprints and activities. Certain weaknesses and breaches in your own network can be exploited by cybercriminals.

Keep in mind that as long as your device that contains sensitive information is connected, that means that it’s already potentially at risk. But, there are steps that you can take to lessen that risk.

If possible, have your IT department configure and set-up your computers. Make sure that you’re protected with a firewall and it’s already configured depending on the structure of your own network and its complexity.

The most basic thing that you can do is to make sure that your network is protected with a strong password. While your Internet Service Provider will already set-up a default password for your WiFi, the said password must be changed as soon as your router is installed. This is the same concept on why we change our ATM pins the moment we receive our card.

Be wary of giving your WiFi password as well. If you have a guest and they asked for it, it’s best that you personally input the information to their device and remind them to “forget” the network once they leave. Or, you could change the password again to keep your network safe. While this may seem extreme, think of the devices connected to your Internet as doors to your and your patients’ private information. If one door is unlocked for cybercriminals to access, then the safety of your whole network is compromised.