HIPAA & Other Necessities for Healthcare Apps

Amplework Software Pvt. Ltd.
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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA – why is it important?

Gone are the days when people need to book for an appointment for treatment by the doctor. The mobile revolution in the last decade has brought up healthcare mobile application development. The Healthcare industry has expanded its roots through the healthcare mobile apps field. Mobile healthcare apps or mHealth apps are helping patients to get a consultation from the doctors while being at home. In this corona pandemic, the mHealth apps are like a boon for the patients who don’t want to go outside. As per research, there are more than 10,000 mHealth apps in 62 different app stores across the world.

With such a huge number, there comes the responsibility of securely holding the healthcare information of their patients. By extension, these mHealth apps are among the most difficult apps to develop owing in part to their need for HIPAA Compliance. HIPAA comes with national standards for protecting the privacy of patients & their healthcare data. It also gives insurance portability, administrative simplification, and security of electronic records.

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What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA was introduced in 1996. It is a regulation in the USA which has now been promulgated in many other countries. It has provisions for insurance applicable to patients for increasing the app efficiency. It also comes with provisions for protecting the privacy of patient information and data security.

Why you can’t afford to violate HIPAA compliance?

Because of this HIPAA red tape, developing mobile healthcare apps isn’t as simple as developing other healthcare apps. This is true especially for the US market, where medical software solutions come strictly under HIPAA. If you fail to comply with the HIPAA standards then you can face the consequences from $100 to $50,000 per violation. The highest possible penalty is $1.5 million per year for violations of a given provision.

Henceforth, if you are developing a healthcare app in the USA, you can’t afford to violate the HIPPA compliance. In this article, we will guide you about the criteria of how a healthcare app must comply with HIPAA and provide better recommendations.

Should all medical apps be HIPAA compliant?

No, in fact, there is 3 criterion which defines whether your app should be regulated by HIPAA:

Entity: If the app is going to be used by doctors, certified physicians, hospitals, or any other healthcare provider, then it should be HIPAA compliant. Healthcare providers, healthcare plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare business associates should be HIPAA compliant.

Data: The aim of HIPAA is to protect the data and privacy of its users. There are two parts in PHI; medical data and personally identifiable information. When the personally identifiable information gets to connect with the medical data then the medical data becomes PHI.

Software: This is the last criteria that determine whether a mHealth app falls under HIPAA compliance. Depending upon the technology used and covering numerous standards for protecting and controlling access to electronically protected health information (ePHI). These standards include audit, integrity, and access controls.

What are PHI & CHI?

Protected Health Information: It includes bills, MRI scans, emails from doctors, blood test results, and other medical information

Consumer Health Information: It can include the geographical data of the user and the data that can be tracked from a fitness tracker, such as the number of calories burnt; heart-rate, number of steps walked, etc.

The rule here is simple: If your application processes, stores, or transfers any PHI data, it has to be HIPAA compliant.

How to create a HIPAA compliant medical app?

Find an experienced HIPAA Compliant team:

If you don’t have enough experience in HIPAA, then you mustn’t attempt to meet the HIPAA requirements. You should hire an expert team that has previous experience of building HIPAA certification mHealth apps.

Patient Data Evaluation

If using mHealth, you will have a lot of patient data that you have to manage. You need to figure out which data can be categorized as PHI. After this, check what PHI data you can avoid storing or transferring through your mobile app.

Leverage 3rd Party Solutions

Getting HIPAA compliance for every application can cost a fortune. If you think that you want to develop a HIPAA compliant app from scratch, you should know that it can cost you at least $50,000. It includes both physical and technical security requirements. At the initial level, you must be looking for a better cost-effective solution. The best way to save cost and time is to use an already built 3rd party infrastructure and solutions that are HIPAA compliant. This is called IaaS — Infrastructure as a service. For example, Amazon Web Services and TrueVault are compliant with HIPAA.

Data Encryption

You should employ the best security practices to encrypt the stored and transferred data of your patients. There should be no security breaches and use several levels of encryption and obfuscation.

Proper Maintenance and Testing

Testing is highly important, which you have to do after every update. You should regular testing of your application and better to consult with an expert to check whether the documentation is up to date. Maintenance isn’t a one-time deal. You have to do it regularly to ensure the safety of your application. After you build a HIPAA-compliant mHealth app, you’ll need to make sure you update them regularly; otherwise, a security breach can occur.

Why is HIPAA compliance important?

Healthcare institutions such as Hospitals, Clinics, etc…

First, come first, if a healthcare institution violates the HIPAA requirements then it has to pay massive fines which would be thousands of dollars. A single breach can cost a hospital from $100 to $50,000 fine.

“Children’s Medical Center of Dallas faced a $3.2 million fine for failing to encrypt all data on portable devices”

“In 2015, a Massachusetts hospital faced a $218,000 fine for putting data of nearly 500 patients at risk”

For Patients

HIPAA ensures the patients that their healthcare data is completely encrypted and secured. Their medical information can be used by malefactors against patients, which can result in serious consequences. It protects the patients from their identity theft, a personal data fraud crime. Identify theft can result in financial losses, large debts, and fake claims.

Wrapping Up

In countries like the US, the government gives utmost priority to the data security of every app user. The strong HIPAA regulations have been only for this purpose. At Amplework, we are having expertise in developing highly secure HIPAA compliant phone application implementing all HIPAA rules.