Online Doctors Visits: Privacy Concerns and How to Protect Your Health Information

Almost everyone has gotten up in the middle of the night, scribbling through the room to locate a thermometer. Or maybe you are a parent who wakes up to find a sniffling child by your bedside saying, ‘I don’t feel so good.’ Some standard practices after the scene are phoning the doctor to ensure it’s nothing serious and then setting up the alarm to make an appointment when the nearby clinic opens.

However, with modern-day developments, you don’t have to set a time and get your car ready to visit the doctor. Now, you can set up appointments with online doctors via telemedicine. Telemedicine saw significant hype during the pandemic. A study shows that about 40% of US citizens prefer telemedicine to personal clinic visits. [1].Where telehealth has served countless people efficiently and effectively, it has some downsides, and privacy violation is a significant concern.

What Is Privacy Protection and Why Is It Important?

Protecting your health information is vital when using digital media to communicate with a doctor. Although healthcare organizations secure things at their ends, some things also fall on your part. However, before diving into how you can do so, it is crucial to understand privacy protection in online doctors’ visits and why it is a concern.

Online Doctors Visits: Privacy Concerns and How to Protect Your Health Information

Privacy violation is a common problem faced in the technological world. The information patients fill up on digital portals may be exposed to unauthorized users if proper measures are not taken. Most healthcare providers invest in hiring experts to secure their databases. However, still, studies reveal that there have been cyber incidents with healthcare organizations.

For instance, Constella created a report in 2020 that shows that the number of data leaks in medical sectors increased by 1.5 times more than in 2019[2]. Similarly, the HIPAA journal concluded that data breaches in 2019 were about 512. However, the figures increased to 642 in 2021[3].

How To Protect Your Health Information When Consulting Online Doctors

It is always possible to start working on your digital defenses. The following sections explain how you can protect your privacy as a patient.

1. Use a Security Software

Security software is an excellent way to safeguard your personal health information. Nowadays, antivirus software also includes device security features. This software uses multiple encryption and filtration techniques to ensure that only the needed data is available to third parties.

Moreover, they also keep track of third-party resources using your information and provide features to block their access. Although, many people don’t heed more thought to it. But it is always a good practice to protect your mobile devices apart from laptops and computers.

2. Strengthen Your Passwords

Weak passwords are the most common cause of data breaches. A survey shows that about 24% of Americans use considerably weak passwords, which leads to data breaches [4]. Similarly, people frequently use the same passwords for most accounts or habitually share their passwords with colleagues and friends.

When making appointments with online doctors, practice choosing strong passwords and not sharing them. If you have difficulty remembering your passwords, try using a password manager to smoothen things. In case of a breach, always switch to another solid and unique password and update them after a few months to prevent future mischief.

3. Use VPN


VPN or Virtual Private Network provides additional security to communicate your health information to online doctors or portals. A VPN masks your IP address making you appear anonymous to third parties.

This way, all the entities outside the VPN’s virtual tunnel can not collect the communicated information. Without a VPN, all the information is exposed and susceptible to breach.

The benefits of a VPN are not only limited to telemedicine. A VPN is vital when you are using public networks as well. Using a VPN when transferring financial information and transactions is also a good protection measure.

4. Look Out for Scams

When searching for online doctors, always watch for shady links and scams. Website ads are a nest of phishing attacks and malware as well. Therefore, refrain from proceeding with websites that seem sketchy.

Web advisor software is also available nowadays; it can quickly identify risky and infected links to find another suitable healthcare provider.

5. Get Recommendations Before Choosing Online Doctors

Sometimes people make telemedicine appointments for second opinions as well. If that is the case, then you should ask your doctor to recommend some online doctors. This way, you will also get an assurance whether an online doctor appointment or visit is appropriate for your current condition or will a physical visit be necessary after all.

On the other hand, if you are reserving an appointment and are not under treatment with any doctor, then check social media and other public platforms to get some recommendations.

Online Doctors Visits: Privacy Concerns and How to Protect Your Health Information

6. Ensure Environmental Privacy

In addition to the digital barriers, you should also ensure physical privacy. Choose a quiet spot in your home where you can take the session distraction-free. Avoid taking a telemedicinal visit in public places. Try to use a good microphone that can catch your voice clearly without requiring you to be loud.

Similarly, if your child has a telemedicine appointment, set up a spot in their bedroom and advise them to speak low so the information remains confidential.

7. Avoid Sharing Your Medical Details on Social Media

One of the major mistakes people make is sharing their private health information on social media for advice and opinions. It is an unhealthy practice. Refrain from sharing your medical consultation details and online doctors’ information on social media, as it may also result in identity breaches.

8. Read about the Privacy Policy of Online Doctors

Before finalizing your decision, take some time to read the provider’s privacy policies. There should be a clear-cut explanation of how the organization uses its patient’s information and its measures if there is an information breach.

The Takeaway

Online doctor services and telehealth are taking root as they offer convenience, timely medical assistance, and cost-effectiveness. But still, privacy protection is a significant concern. Therefore, patients and providers must take proper measures to deal with the unnerving matter.

You can safeguard your health information by following the measures mentioned above. Secure your health information so you and your loved ones stay safe digitally and medically.


1. What measures does a healthcare organization take to protect user privacy?

Most healthcare organizations use encryption and filtration techniques to protect their patient’s health information. Moreover, they also send awareness emails prohibiting patients from sharing private information.

2. How does one ensure protection in telehealth?

Some common ways to provide privacy in telehealth include using strong passwords, security software, and VPNs.

3. Why is patient privacy essential to protection?

Securing patients’ health information assures them that their data is confidential and secure. Moreover, it also ensures compliance with privacy standards to foster patient trust.

4. How does privacy violation affect the reputation of healthcare providers?

Ineffective protection measures result in data breaches which leads to authority inquiries. Moreover, it may result in a complete shutdown, and patients will migrate to secure providers.






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