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5 Reasons Why ZTNA is Important for Virtual Medical Assistants

  • 30 Jan 2024
  • 7 min read

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The healthcare industry is transforming its operations to accommodate patients in a better way. Organizations are adopting various digital solutions, technologies, and tactics, and one such innovation is Healthcare Virtual Assistants (HVA). Virtual medical assistants have become a common norm in the healthcare industry, with the overall market likely to reach $512.92 million by 2023. These assistants handle tasks like scheduling appointments, monitoring patients' health promptly, and providing them with medical advice.

However, relying on virtual assistants increases the need for data security and privacy as HVAs access patients' personal and financial information. The possibility of any of this sensitive data being mishandled makes HVAs an attractive target for cybercriminals. Another potential drawback is that they operate remotely, and with perimeter-based security models being obsolete, it becomes challenging for HVA providers to ensure secure remote access.

Though using HVA poses security risks, the good news is that you can mitigate them by adopting a zero-trust architecture. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a robust security framework that offers a dynamic approach that protects healthcare information and provides a secure working environment for HVAs. This post delves into the benefits of the zero-trust approach for healthcare virtual assistants, but amidst this, readers must first grasp the concept of ZTNA and its working mechanism.

What is ZTNA?

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), previously known as software-defined perimeter (SDP), is a buzzword among IT and security professionals across all industries. Gartner coined it as a set of technologies that provides secure access to corporate and remote employees. As a subgroup of the zero trust security model, ZTNA assumes that every entity trying to connect to a network is hostile. It therefore, requires all users and devices, whether inside or outside the network perimeter, to be authenticated, authorized, and validated for security posture to access corporate resources.

With end-user spending on the ZTNA architecture reaching $1.674 billion in 2025, it has become a crucial component of modern cybersecurity, allowing administrators to control who can access which resources. It is also highly scalable and can be deployed without any fundamental shift in the security architecture. Here are some more reasons why companies are adopting the ZTNA model:

  • The widely distributed modern workplaces and networks comprise on-site and remote employees who use corporate and personal devices. ZTNA offers robust protection for each attack surface while increasing the productivity of both corporate and hybrid workers.
  • ZTNA solutions leverage various technologies, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), micro-segmentation, encryption, and identity and access management (IAM). All this provides a secure environment for accessing sensitive data and applications.
  • It allows organizations to leverage software-based access solutions, eliminating the need for legacy architecture.
  • It creates a virtual darknet that prevents application discovery on the public internet, making applications invisible to users and protecting against cyber threats and data exposure.

Organizations can deploy ZTNA as an agent-based or agentless solution after identifying their network assets and assessing their security posture.

How Does ZTNA Work?

Businesses have relied on traditional perimeter security solutions, such as firewalls or VPNs, to protect sensitive data and applications within the network.cover 2 (2)-1


The standard security model, like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), provides direct access to the endpoint on a network after routing the traffic through a centralized gateway or servers. It establishes an encrypted connection between two devices, and after verification, everything within the corporate network is accessible. This increases the corporate attack surface and allows hackers to steal employees' usernames, passwords, and other confidential data. For this reason, the perimeter-based security model doesn't fulfill the needs of modern security standards.cover 3 (2)


In contrast, ZTNA provides access to only authorized users, servers, and applications. It follows the philosophy that trust is never assumed by default and provides users with application-specific access. If a user asks for access to an application, it will be authorized and authenticated only for that particular resource. In other words, users do not have access to other applications and data on the notion that they've been verified first.

After being authenticated, ZTNA provides secure access to the relevant application by creating an encrypted tunnel. ZTNA uses tunneling protocols to create an encrypted yet secure pathway between the user device and the target resource. Unlike the traditional corporate network that uses private Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) based WAN connection, ZTNA uses TLS-encrypted public internet connections. It hides the user's IP address while the resource sees the IP address of the ZTNA broker, adding a layer of anonymity and keeping the network traffic secure.

ZTNA solutions provide access by considering various contextual factors and verifying them, such as users' location, resources requested, security configurations, and the frequency of access requests. They also continuously monitor and validate the network traffic on the device or the software running and alert the security teams on suspicious activities or behavior. This is why sometimes verified users can't access the network in case of insecure devices or suspicious actions detected like changed location.

Why is Zero Trust Important for HVA Providers?

Virtual assistants in the healthcare sector are required to assess the massive amount of personal data healthcare providers hold, like patients' full names, addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers. They can even access patients' financial information, such as credit card details, for billing claims and assistance.

By accessing this information, hackers can easily commit identity theft and even sell the data on the dark web for money. One such incident in the past was when Russian hackers released data of about 1500 patients from the private health insurance company Medibank on the dark web after they refused to pay a $10m ransom. The implications of these incidents can be devastating, including financial loss, reputational harm, and lawsuits and penalties due to compliance failure.

Considering all this, maintaining data security has become vital for the healthcare industry. Healthcare institutions and HVA providers can protect against cyber threats and breaches by implementing traditional security measures. But as perimeter-centric security is becoming vulnerable, HVA providers must consider advanced technology like zero trust network access (ZTNA) to protect their networks, secure patients' records, and minimize the risks of data theft and breaches.

To give you a better understanding of the benefits of zero trust among HVA providers, here's an insight into the most prominent user cases:cover 4 (2)


Curious if Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is the right fit for your remote workforce? Take this quick ZTNA Readiness quiz to find out!

Reduce Attack Surface

Healthcare organizations widely embrace technologies and systems such as the Internet of Medical Devices (IoMT). Many virtual assistants are integrated with IoT devices for remote patient monitoring and, in turn, improving healthcare facilities. However, these devices expand the attack surface as they may have vulnerabilities like weak passwords, outdated software, or misconfiguration that cybercriminals can misuse, resulting in the theft of PHI, research data, and financial data.

ZTNA framework enforces granular and adaptive least privilege policies that reduce the expanded attack surface and risk of unauthorized access. Least privilege access is a core component of the zero trust model that ensures users, including virtual assistants, get the minimum access required to complete their tasks.

HVAs can limit access to specific resources by implementing access control policies based on users' identities and other contextual factors. This prevents lateral movement of the attackers within the network and minimizes the chances of cyber attacks and data exposure.

Enhanced Security

The healthcare industry is among the most expensive for data breaches, with the average cost of a healthcare data breach reaching $ 11 million in 2023. Data breaches within healthcare institutions result from various reasons, and poor security practices like using weak passwords or vulnerabilities within the devices virtual assistants use are among them.

Healthcare VA providers should follow cyber hygiene practices like conducting device posture checks to ensure that the virtual assistant devices connected to the network meet security standards. In addition, they can implement robust IAM policies strengthening verifying user identities as this prevents unauthorized access, safeguards patients' data, and maintains confidentiality within healthcare interactions.

Various ZTNA solutions perform device posture checks to ensure that the devices used by VAs to access the network meet security standards and decide whether they should get access. It assesses that the devices are adequately configured, run on the latest software version, and are free from vulnerabilities. Without these checks, hackers can easily roam within the network and compromise sensitive data; hence, keeping a strict check and balance is crucial.

Ensure Compliance Requirements

Healthcare assistants have access to patients' data and other confidential healthcare information. They must follow data protection laws such as HIPAA to ensure patients' information is well protected. Not adhering to healthcare regulations puts HVA providers at a significant risk of penalties and lawsuits. According to the HIPAA Journal, penalties for violating each HIPAA regulation range from $100 to $50,000, and in extreme cases can serve a jail sentence up to ten years.

Within the zero-trust environment, everything inside or outside the network is considered potentially hostile. ZTNA solutions enforce different security policies to restrict virtual assistant access and safeguard healthcare data. This cutting-edge solution authenticates and verifies each device used to ensure that it aligns with regulatory compliance and data protection standards.

Provide Better Visibility for Threat Detection

Healthcare organizations often store their data on various devices, systems, and platforms like Electronic Health Records (EHRs), telehealth, or cloud services. Virtual assistants must access and combine data from these sources to facilitate the patients. However, the diverse data sources make monitoring and tracking the data flow challenging, resulting in a lack of visibility.

The lack of visibility exposes healthcare organizations to a variety of cyber threats. The most common threats include ransomware and phishing attacks.

ZTNA solutions provide healthcare organizations greater visibility into user activities and network traffic to manage vulnerabilities and detect data breaches. IT administrators and security can view who's accessing the network, the devices they're using, and the resources they attempt to access.

Zero trust also allows healthcare VA companies to gain visibility and better control their network via micro-segmentation, which divides the internal network into isolated networks. This way, ZTNA restricts the threat actors' lateral movement, detects suspicious activity, and responds to them promptly.

Secure Remote Access

Oftentimes HVAs access ePHI from their personal devices which results in a lack of visibility and poses significant privacy and security risks. These devices are not adequately secure and can provide an entry point to attackers from where they can access the VAs and their sensitive data.

The zero-trust model ensures a secure remote working environment for virtual medical assistants. It implements role-based access control (RBAC) to control who accesses the resources within the network. RBAC is a security authorization strategy that assigns users specific roles and varying degrees of privileges and prevents unauthorized access to resources. For healthcare virtual assistants, it means the separation of duties and critical tasks like processing patients’ financial information for billings and accessing patients' histories are divided among different roles, which reduces the chances of data exposure. This way, ZTNA provides greater visibility for the remote workers' and strengthens the overall security posture.

Final Thoughts

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a framework that provides remote security and focuses on maintaining strict access controls by authenticating users and devices to access the network. Unlike traditional perimeter-based access models, it offers more visibility across the network and ensures greater protection.

By adopting this modern security framework, HVAs can ensure secure remote access to their customers’ resources and reduce their attack surface to consistently adhere to mandatory data protection laws and safeguard patients' information.

Contact us now and learn how PureDome can further help healthcare virtual assistants secure healthcare data and improve efficiency and productivity.