Why Skype Is Scary

November 21, 2012 by InTouch Health

At first glance, Skype would seem like a wonderful medium for telemedicine. There are now about 180 million Skype users worldwide taking advantage of its free communications capabilities. People rave about its ease of use. So why not use this popular tool for telemedicine?

Before you hop on the Skype bandwagon, here are some great reasons to avoid it like the plague in a healthcare application:

It’s a lawsuit magnet – Skype isn’t HIPAA-compliant, so it doesn’t meet the federal requirements for ensuring the confidentiality of patient data. If you use Skype in a healthcare setting, you’ll soon be hearing the click of attorneys’ briefcases.

Risk of losing or abusing patient data – If hackers delight in stealing celebrities’ smartphone photos, think how much fun they’ll have hijacking their lab results.

No oversight – Information passed back and forth on consumer platforms like Skype and Tango can’t be effectively documented and managed by a hospital CIO or quality leaders. And if healthcare data can’t be integrated and shared, doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of team-based care?

The technology is unsafe – More worms and spyware infect computers via Skype than any other source except for music file-sharing. You may get some successful teleconsultations under your belt, but is it worth the risk of crashing your entire network?

The connection is low-grade and unreliable – Skype doesn’t offer interoperability with other video programs, and transmission quality is sometimes poor.

Risk of impersonation – Although Skype uses digital certificates for log-in, there’s no guarantee that the person you’re speaking with is really a doctor. So theoretically, an actor from Scrubs could approve your next surgery.

Those are some pretty serious drawbacks in an industry as litigious and regulated as healthcare. Skype might be a great medium for business meetings, but it’s a toxic tool for telemedicine.