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Telehealth privacy for patients

Telehealth is a safe and secure way of connecting with your health care provider online. Just like in-person care, your telehealth appointments, messages, and information are protected by privacy rules.

Woman sitting on floor, legs folded, with laptop in lap. Lock image on laptop screen.

Connecting securely online

Telehealth connects patients with health care online, using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Although your appointment will use your regular internet service or data plan, health care providers typically use secure patient portals to message, call, and video chat with patients. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, federal policy changes have also allowed health care providers to sometimes use popular video chat programs for telehealth care.

Tip: Are you new to telehealth? Get tips and information on the basics of telehealth (PDF), telehealth privacy tips for patients (PDF), and privacy and security tips for patients.

Understand how your health data is protected to ensure privacy.

Privacy during your appointment

Your health care provider will call you from a private setting such as their office or an appointment room. You should also be in a private, safe location where you feel safe to openly discuss your health.

Private locations for your appointment include:

  • A private room of your home
  • Your car
  • A private room in a friend’s home
  • Outdoors, away from other people

If you cannot find a private place for a video telehealth appointment, let your provider know. You may be able to email, chat, or text through your provider’s patient portal instead. They can also help you to reschedule or suggest a location for the visit.

Tip: Watch and learn more about what to expect from a telehealth visit (video).

Did you know?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA, created a federal law and standard for protecting your personal information. HIPAA rules keep your paper and digital medical histories private, including what you share during telehealth visits.

Tips for safely sharing information online

Telehealth makes it possible to get some health care services, wherever you are. Keeping telehealth private and secure is the responsibility of patients and providers. Take steps to protect yourself when you begin connecting with your provider online.

  • Only enter your personal information on secure websites with a lock icon in the address bar
  • Keep your devices protected with updated antivirus software
  • Protect your wireless connection with a password
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi to access telehealth services
  • Avoid accessing telehealth on devices shared with people outside of your home or family
  • Don’t set up a telehealth appointment or share your information with a provider you don’t know or with information you don’t recognize. Call your regular provider’s main phone number to confirm their identity first.

Did you know?

Telehealth technology uses encryption to protect your privacy and create a secure environment for communicating. Encryption makes your data unreadable to anyone else on the internet.