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HIPAA compliant mobile app

How To Create HIPAA Compliant Mobile Apps?

As per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), every healthcare mobile app should comply to the regulations of the HIPAA act. The act requires developers to create apps that keep protected health information (PHI) of every patient secure as per the Privacy Rule. Through this blog, we would dive deeper into what is HIPAA, and how to create HIPAA compliant mobile apps.

With an influx of mobile apps accessible via smartphones and wearable, data hacking and scams have increased. Since hospitals, healthcare providers, and insurance companies heavily rely on these devices to access, share and track information regarding a patient, the law in the US requires all the mhealth apps to be HIPAA compliant. Similarly, every country has its own set of regulations and acts with which their healthcare apps are required to comply. 

Before jumping to how to create HIPAA compliant mobile apps, we will first understand what HIPAA is and what is PHI.

Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act

HIPAA came into existence in 1996 when the internet was still in its initial phase. The act was introduced to maintain and protect the privacy of a patient’s medical records and private health information, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure individuals who have lost or changed their jobs are covered by health insurance.

HIPAA compliance for mobile apps concerns the data protection and security of patients. The HIPAA compliant mobile apps help prevent ID theft and fraud against patient’s data. 

Protected Health Information

Sensitive information about a person’s health, medical records, and other information should be protected and kept confidential. This information includes medical bills, test results, emails, MRI scans, and related information that can be used to identify the particular patient. 

Any entity who handles the transmission or storage of private data is liable to comply with PHI as per the privacy rule of HIPAA. Under this rule, companies are divided into Covered entities and Business Associates.

  • Covered Entities – Includes healthcare providers, health care clearinghouses, and plans who transfer health information electronically or accept payments.
  • Business Associates – Includes third parties that handle PHI on behalf of covered entities such as mobile app developers. 

Fines For Non-Compliance

Companies who were not compliant with HIPAA learned it the hard way. For instance, Anthem which was the largest insurance company in the US had to pay $115 million in settlement for the biggest data breach in healthcare. In 2013, Fresenius Medical Care North America had to pay $3.5 million in fines due to data breaches of 525 patients. Learning from these examples, it is advised to comply with HIAA to avoid the below fines.

  • When the covered entity is unaware of data breach without having known about it reasonably, they are required to pay between $100 – $50,000 if not corrected within 30 days.
  • If the entity is aware of the breach which happened due to a reasonable cause, the fine ranges from $1000 – $50,000 if not corrected within 30 days.
  • For neglecting HIPAA rule wilfully, the fine ranges from $10,000 – $50,000 if corrected within 30 days.
  • For neglecting HIPAA rule wilfully, the fine is $50,000 if not corrected within 30 days.

Tips to Create HIPAA Compliant Mobile Apps

To create HIPAA compliant mobile apps, you should apply technical safeguards, physical safeguards, and administrative safeguards to ensure the app is secure. 

Technical Safeguards:

  • Hire A Mobile App Development Company – Get an experienced mobile app development company that has developed successful healthcare apps to develop a HIPAA compliant mobile app for you.
  • Encryption of Data – All the protected health information stored in the app should be protected through encryption. Link back-end servers on HTTPS to mobile apps through App transport security for data encryption.
  • Automatic Logoff – The app should automatically log the user off after a few seconds in case the user forgets to log off. This would protect the user information from being accessed by an unauthorized party.
  • Security Testing – Perform static and dynamic security tests, third-party security audits and penetration tests after updates. 
  • Regular Updates – Mobile devices are prone to threats and attacks, which can be prevented by providing regular updates for the app and alerting the user to update the most recent version to fix bugs and avoid threats.
  • Audit Logging – Audit logging enables the app to monitor logs and activities such as data changes, file access details, new users and other information. These logs help in monitoring and controlling access to and use of PHI.
  • Unique User Identification – Merely protecting mobile devices with passwords that are not very strong puts the PHI at risk. Therefore, the app should have a unique user authentication which requires a unique ID and password to log in and access the PHI.

Physical Safeguards:

  • Workstation Security and Use – Ensure that all devices at the workstation should be logged off after use or while leaving the workstation, antivirus software should be in place and technical safeguards should be implemented if the device leaves the premises. The systems must be password protected and should be viewable only by the authorized employee.
  • Device Controls – All sensitive information should be wiped and removed before disposing of any software that contains PHI and data should be erased from a device with the HIPAA compliant apps.
  • Controlling Facility Access – Limit access to facilities where PHI is stored to only authorized parties. This would prevent unauthorized users from accessing confidential information. 

Administrative Safeguards:

  • Authorize specific users to the PHI that is relevant to their job while protecting the information that is not relevant for their job function.
  • Regularly train employees on security policies in regard to PHI.
  • Prepare a contingency plan to update affected parties in case of a breach.

Conclusion:

Adopting the above tips and ensuring your mhealth app is HIPAA compliant can save you and your business from hefty fines, data breaches, and legal repercussions. Therefore, it is imperative for your healthcare app to adhere to the HIPAA standards. The development team at a reputed healthcare app development company such as Enuke Software carefully consider the above factors while developing a mobile app for your business. Reading about how to create HIPAA compliant mobile apps, should have cleared most of your doubts for you to proceed to the next step of app development.

Last modified: 21 Jan 2020