CynergisTek survey highlights teletherapy becoming a mainstay in healthcare, but security vulnerabilities worries patients
AUSTIN, TX (October 6, 2020) – Amid rising mental health struggles for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey from leading healthcare cybersecurity firm CynergisTek reveals that nearly a majority of Americans (46 percent) would embrace telehealth widely for mental health and therapy sessions, but worry most about their behavioral health data being exposed by hackers.
“What’s surprising here is how open Americans are to mental healthcare via telemedicine, highlighting how providers should double down on offering wider access to mental healthcare through virtual visits,” said Caleb Barlow, president and CEO of CynergisTek. “This not only opens up new, flexible options for patients — who can see their providers within the comfort of their own homes — but it also enables providers to create greater efficiencies, streamline patient queues and expand their reach to new patients.”
Nearly Half of Americans Willing to Try Mental Telehealth; Millennials, GenX and Women Far More Receptive to Teletherapy
Attitudes towards telehealth, especially in mental healthcare, have shifted dramatically as Americans increasingly seek out virtual visits with seeing behavioral health professionals. When considering telehealth use for non-urgent care, Americans would most likely consider using it for mental health sessions (46 percent), followed by chronic care check-ups (29 percent) and annual physical and children’s wellness exams (27 percent). When drilling down into other key groups, it was found that:
- Millennials, GenX and females are more receptive than other Americans to using telehealth solutions for a mental health session (54 percent, 50 percent and 52 percent respectively)
- Boomers and men were found to be less enthusiastic about using teletherapy: only 34 percent of Boomers and 40 percent of men reported they’d consider using telehealth for mental healthcare counseling.
Only 22 percent of respondents would consider delaying mental health appointments vs. the nearly 40 percent would delay annual exams and more than 40 percent of respondents would consider delaying eye exams, dentists appointments and cosmetic procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Access to mental healthcare is essential, especially during these times, as individuals of all ages are experiencing increased social isolation, anxiety and depression related to the COVID-19. However, it’s mandatory that providers balance technology use with security measures to protect data,” said Barlow.
Telehealth tools have always been around, but lack of reimbursement stymied progress and limited incentive to use these solutions for critically resource-challenged areas like mental health. With COVID-19 spurring regulators to authorize reimbursements for virtual visits, mental health professionals are scrambling to keep up with the demand.
Studies have found that switching to telemental health doesn’t come at the cost of efficacy. Expanding use of mental health services through telehealth can be a boon for rural, underserved communities and can close healthcare inequity gaps among lower socio-economic communities who may not have access to transportation or can’t take time off work to see a mental health professional.
Nearly 1 in 2 Americans Very Concerned About Privacy and Breached Mental Health Data
The survey also found that although the vast majority of Americans are receptive to using telehealth for mental healthcare needs, patients could be easily scared off should their sensitive behavioral health data be breached. Respondents indicated they are most concerned about their mental health data being exposed in a data breach than any other type of data (44 percent).
- Although Millennials and GenX are open to using telehealth solutions for mental health sessions, they are also extremely concerned with their mental health data being exposed in a breach (50 percent and 48 percent). Surprisingly, Boomers were found to be more ambivalent about their privacy and mental health data being breached, with only 32 percent expressing concerns.
- 34 percent of Americans are also worried about their sexual health data being exposed in a potential breach, a number which increases significantly among Gen Z (42 percent) and Millennial (40 percent) respondents.
As telehealth surges in use, hackers haven’t been on the sidelines waiting for the pandemic subside. A recent report found the number of attacks on telehealth vendors has increased by 117 percent, highlighting how cyber adversaries are looking to new modes of entry to exploit emerging vulnerabilities with the expanded use of technology.
“It’s exciting to see such change taking place so rapidly which benefits both patients and providers, especially on mental healthcare which is out of reach for so many,” said David Finn, executive vice president of strategic innovation of CynergisTek. “However, nonmedical technology platforms like Zoom won’t cut it when protecting the privacy of patients. Providers must invest in secure platforms that ensure sensitive health data isn’t hijacked, creating distrust in telehealth and the system overall.”
“Telemental health is here to stay. We’ve heard feedback from many patients who try at-home services for the first time and say things like ‘You mean, I could have been accessing my sessions this way all along?’, said Jim Varrell, Chief Medical Officer of InSight + Regroup, a national telepsychiatry provider organization. “Making the patient and clinician experience with telemental health as secure as possible is essential as the patient-clinician relationship must be safe and private.”
CynergisTek’s survey was conducted between June 24-26 2020, and includes 5,005 U.S. adults, ages 18+.
CynergisTek is a top-ranked cybersecurity firm dedicated to serving the information assurance needs of the healthcare industry. CynergisTek offers specialized services and solutions to help organizations achieve privacy, security, and compliance goals. Since 2004, the company has served as a partner to hundreds of healthcare organizations and is dedicated to supporting and educating the industry by contributing to relevant industry associations. The company has been recognized by KLAS as a top-performing firm in healthcare cybersecurity and was awarded the 2019 Top Healthcare Cybersecurity Consultants in Black Book IT Advisory Outcomes Survey.
This release contains certain forward-looking statements relating to the business of CynergisTek that can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “may” or similar expressions. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties, including uncertainties relating to product/service development, long and uncertain sales cycles, the ability to obtain or maintain patent or other proprietary intellectual property protection, market acceptance, future capital requirements, competition from other providers, the ability of our vendors to continue supplying the company with equipment, parts, supplies and services at comparable terms and prices and other factors that may cause actual results to be materially different from those described herein as anticipated, believed, estimated or expected. Certain of these risks and uncertainties are or will be described in greater detail in our Form 10-K and Form 10-Q filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are available at http://www.sec.gov. CynergisTek is under no obligation (and expressly disclaims any such obligation) to update or alter its forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
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