Vital Tips to Make Mobile Apps HIPAA Compliant

The last few years have witnessed an evident increase in the number of mobile applications across app stores. Reports suggest that there are 3,25,000 mHealth apps on the various app stores as of 2017. Of this Android is home to 1,58,000 apps. To bring in authenticity and prevent loss or breach of confidential patient data, mobile health apps are now required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA compliant Apps safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI).

It remains a fact that building HIPAA compliant apps is a demanding endeavor for many technology vendors. Healthcare mobile app development personnel who are unaware of the Privacy policy around mHealth apps may end up delivering a product that falls far short of the stringent norms laid down in the HIPAA act.

Why Is It Important to Abide by HIPAA?

The volume and diversity of mHealth applications are definitely going to increase in the years to come. It makes sense for the technology product development vendor to be well-versed with HIPAA for a healthcare client.

Understanding the legal aspects of a mHealth software application is a must for healthcare app developers in order to grow in this sector and create opportunities that lead to positive outcomes for your application.

Adding credibility to any business is imperative and adhering to HIPAA does this task for the sensitive healthcare industry. If any company is found to store or transmit PHI contrary to the norms of the Act, it is then liable to repercussions.

This will be applicable even if the healthcare establishment pleads that they weren’t aware of the pre-established norms.

The consequences of the violation of regulations are inescapable. It has become essential to develop HIPAA compliant mobile apps in order to stay protected from such unfavorable consequences.

The Privacy and Security Policy

Two vital aspects determine the level of conformity by a mhealth app – Privacy and security rules.

  1. The Privacy Rules:

    These rules dictate what detail or information will constitute a PHI. In its truest sense, PHI is any transmittable medical information across any medium and just does not fence itself within the hospitals’ systems or other such care-providing facilities alone.

    If you think that only hospitals and institutions from where such data originates will be held accountable then it will be an incorrect fact. Any entity or organization that deals in storage or transmission of such protected information are liable to be held accountable as per HIPAA protocols.

A Checklist for Mobile App Developers to Conform to HIPAA

This HIPAA compliance checklist is created to show a way to medical app developers. This way, the app they create would successfully fit into the requirements etched out by HIPAA.

Conforming to HIPAA guidelines during mHealth, mobile app development can be a tricky affair. This is why we at Mobisoft run you through the best practices to build the app without falling into non-compliance issues with HIPAA.

  1. Make Sure That Assigned Roles Are Clear:
    1. The security protocol for any health care app needs to be adhered to. It should be defined without any ambiguity and be assessed by qualified experts. It will be unwise to assume that regular healthcare app developers would serve as HIPAA experts.
    2. Considering the nature of the app you would be creating is essential. It is extremely important for you as a healthcare app developer to understand what exactly you are getting into and the severity of it all.
    3. In addition to HIPAA, you need to see how other regulations come into play during app development and post their deployment. This is crucial to add the trust factor in your app.
  2. Alleviate Exposure or Risks:
    1. Prevent the app from storing data that would be otherwise irrelevant. E.g.: if the service you provide does not require the patients’ residential address, you might as well not ask for it.
    2. Specify a clearly written Privacy policy for the mHealth mobile application.
    3. One of the simplest (yet unheeded) aspects of strengthening your PHI security is to not store information at all. Avoiding caching PHI spells stronger security solutions
    4. Before opting for cloud storing, ensure that the mode of transmission and whether its storage on a cloud deployment is safe and secure. Having a Business Associate Agreement with third-party providers helps too.
    5. Be cautious with geolocational data when making a HIPAA compliant app. Geolocation data regarding a particular patient could threaten to convert otherwise harmless data into PHI.

Read More Tips to Make Mobile Apps HIPAA Complaint.

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