HIPAA Compliance App Development: How to Do It Right?

by / ⠀Blog / January 3, 2023
HIPAA compliance

Healthcare is in the midst of a mobile revolution, and it will only be a matter of time before mobile healthcare applications change how we deliver, consume, measure, and pay for healthcare. This revolution has been fueled by how quickly new ideas are being made and how useful mobile health apps can be. The US market for mobile healthcare apps is worth about $13.4 billion, with a projected CAGR of 9.7 percent between 2022 and 2030. But HIPAA still needs to be top of mind.

There are a lot of mobile apps that can help improve health. Still, before a healthcare provider or organization can recommend one to a patient, they need to be sure that there is HIPAA compliant app development, the app is easy to use, safe, and helpful for the disease or behavior in question,

Let’s dive deeper into the topic of HIPAA compliant app development now.

App market HIPAA

HIPAA Act: Brief Overview

In 1996, the federal government proposed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to regulate the protection of patient data, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure that people who lost their jobs continued to have access to health insurance. By empowering the US Department of Health and Human Services with rule-making authority, HIPAA prevents inappropriate disclosures of patients’ protected health information (PHI).

Without the patient’s permission, it is against the law to disclose their PHI in accordance with HIPAA. Medical professionals, hospitals, health insurance companies, and other entities dealing with protected health information must adhere to HIPAA regulations. The HIPAA Act guarantees the highest standards of care regarding patient information, especially when stored digitally.

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Terms Relating to HIPAA

HIPAA terms

We briefly discuss some of the industry terms relating to HIPAA

  • Protected Health Information: Also known as “PHI,” refers to any health records that are generated, obtained, preserved, or transferred by HIPAA-covered entities or their business associates. PHI is for the purposes of providing healthcare, operating healthcare businesses, or paying for healthcare services. HIPAA permits the US Department of Health and Human Services to establish regulations to protect the confidentiality of patient’s health records.
  • Covered Entities: Anyone who treats patients or has access to their personal health information is considered a “covered entity” and is therefore required to follow the rules set forth by HIPAA. Covered entities include doctors, healthcare providers, clinics, hospitals, health plans, clearinghouses, technology companies, cloud service providers, and more.
  • Business Associates: A Business Associate is a third party that is not an employee of a Covered Entity but who performs services on its behalf and has access to Protected Health Information (PHI).

HIPAA regulations as it applies to mobile healthcare appsĀ 

HIPAA regulations

With the rise of digital health evaluations and telehealth consultations, confirming compliance with the HIPAA privacy rule in all your online healthcare mobile app operations is important. A mobile app must immediately become HIPAA compliant when PHI is included.

Mobile Electronic Health Records (EHR) Apps

Telehealth, billing, scheduling, reports, and electronic prescriptions are just some of the many uses for a mobile Electronic Health Records (EHR) app among healthcare providers.

HIPAA compliant app development for electronic health record (EHR) apps ensures privacy, integration, and access. When a covered entity sends patient data to a HIPAA-compliant EHR app, it is the developer’s job to make sure that the app does not use or share the sent electronically protected health information (ePHI) in an unauthorized way.

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Telemedicine Applications

In telemedicine, the doctor and patient are no longer having a private conversation. Information transmits digitally, which calls for upgraded security protocols.

The HIPAA regulations for telemedicine help keep patients’ personal information safe and secure. It also ensures that the technology continues to help people. Thanks to HIPAA’s regulations, patients have more faith in the ability of covered entities to keep their health information safe.

Mobile Applications for Specific Conditions

If a medical app has sensitive information about a patient, it must follow HIPAA rules. This could include their medical history, their current mental or physical state, or the health services they get. HIPAA compliant app development also applies to apps that track payments for healthcare made in the past, present, and future.

Actions to take to ensure your mobile app is HIPAA compliant.

Below are some critical things you must consider during HIPAA compliant app development for the healthcare industry.

Protective MeasuresĀ 

The HIPAA security rule states that your app must have three distinct safeguards. They are;

  • Administrative Measures: Before beginning the project to construct a healthcare app, your staff needs the appropriate training. Additionally, appropriate procedures must be in place to guarantee the security of PHI while the app is being developed and maintained.
  • Technical Measures: Data should have restricted access to prevent misuse, secure transmission to prevent data tampering. Also, audit procedures specify when to require compliance audits.
  • Physical Protection: It is important to guarantee the physical security of the computers, workstations, and servers that the app interacts with. If you work as a remote team or with an external hosting provider, physical security measures are very important.
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8 Easy Ways to Make Your Mobile App HIPAA Compliant

To ensure and implement the safeguards mentioned above, the top steps to take when developing a HIPAA-compliant healthcare app include

  1. Determine the need for HIPAA compliance
  2. Enable secure authentication and logging
  3. Utilize Encryption
  4. Ensure secure data backup, storage, and transmission.
  5. Keep information safe during transmission
  6. Dispose of sensitive information in a secure manner
  7. Create awareness for app users
  8. Perform regular audits.

Bottom Line

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) restricts how medical records can be used and shared. So, as app developers and business owners, we are most interested in HIPAA compliant app development. Because it requires the app to protect users from data fraud.

Making sure your healthcare-related mobile app complies with HIPAA regulations is a must. This holds true especially if you’re considering developing one or releasing it to the public. In this day and age, the protection of citizens’ medical records and personal health information is a top priority for governments worldwide. Also, they can levy fines and penalties for HIPAA violations.

So, developers and app entrepreneurs must take extra steps to ensure that their healthcare apps follow HIPAA rules.

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