As technology advances, the risks associated with cyberattacks and data breaches have increased significantly. Be it the finance or healthcare sector, it is of utmost importance that our confidential data should remain in the right hands. 

If we compare both sectors, the medical data of a person costs 12 times more than the data of a person’s credit card. This is a major reason why healthcare organizations should go for HIPAA-compliant healthcare apps. 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was introduced back in 1996 and was last updated in the year 2013. This act mainly consists of four rules-

Rules-For-PHI

HIPAA ensures secure and standard handling as well as storage of the patient’s medical data. One of the major objectives of this act is to ensure coverage and maintenance of insurance. It also includes provisions related to taxation in medical expenses. When healthcare institutions opt for developing mHealth solutions or healthcare apps, they should emphasize HIPAA Compliant. 

Let’s start from scratch and understand why HIPAA compliance is important for patients and hospitals alike. 

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Importance of HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA is a comprehensive act made for helping patients and healthcare organizations. When we talk about the healthcare sector, we can consider patients and healthcare institutions as stakeholders. 

For Patients

As per HIPAA provision, only healthcare professionals can share the patient’s information with stakeholders. These stakeholders should attend the healthcare operations, and they need to be covered under the PHI (Protected Health Information).  In a way, the patient information remains safe, and no entity can share it without their permission. 

For Patients

Even billing professionals and prescription vendors cannot send patients’ details to anyone. What’s more, healthcare institutes should inform the patients if a breach occurs because patients have the complete right to their health-related information. It facilitates smooth data flow among multiple healthcare organizations in a secure way. 

For Hospitals

To understand the importance of HIPAA compliance for hospitals, we need to see what will happen if hospitals fail to follow HIPAA compliance. In case of non-following of this compliance, hospitals can have to pay massive fines. 

Worldwide, healthcare organizations have already paid over $13 million as a penalty for violating HIPAA compliance till November 2020. 

When healthcare organizations bring HIPAA-compliant software, people’s trust in them increases significantly. These organizations can store the patient’s information more securely.  

Before combining healthcare app development and HIPAA compliance, let’s dig deep into PHI (Protected Health Information). 

Also Read: Healthcare technology trends accelerated by COVID-19

PHI and Covered Entities

Under the US law, any information about health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that is created or collected by a Covered Entity (or its Business Associate), and can be linked to a specific individual, is Protected Health Information (PHI).

PHI and Covered Entities

Here, health plans of insurance companies, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare providers are considered as covered entities. Any associate who stores, collects, maintains, or shares protected information of the patient on behalf of a covered entity is called a business associate.  

In HIPAA compliance, both covered entities and business associates have to follow the Privacy Rules and the Security Rules while dealing with the PHI. The Security Rule further breaks down the protection of electronic information and PHI into three categories- administrative, technical, and physical. 

Any mHealth solutions that store and transmit PHI to either a covered entity or its business associate need to be HIPAA-compliant.  The healthcare app development companies have to take extra care while developing HIPAA-compliant healthcare app. 

The reason is simple- HIPAA compliance adds additional layers of complexity, technical and administrative safeguards, documentation safeguards, and breach notifications. 

Developing, implementing, documenting, and certifying HIPAA-compliant software can take months and remain fairly costly, but looking at the massive penalties for violating HIPAA rules, it seems essential for healthcare organizations to remain HIPAA-compliant. 

New Era in Healthcare Sector

Talking about the exemptions, consumer mHealth apps that collect information related to calorie count and weight loss, need not be compliant with HIPAA. Simply put, if the app does not collect any PHI, HIPAA compliance is not necessary. 

Here is a checklist for developing HIPAA-compliant healthcare apps. However, it is better to consult a reputed mobile app development company to ensure that you get secure and HIPAA-compliant software. 

Top Tips for HIPAA-compliant Healthcare Apps

These tips cover all the phases of app development- before, during, and after developing the HIPAA-compatible apps. 

Hire Healthcare App Development Company

Freelancers are a strict ‘no-no’ for developing a HIPAA-compliant app. You can hire a team of expert and experienced developers from a reliable and reputed healthcare app development company. 

Remove All Risks

During and after developing the healthcare app, you need to take all necessary steps to get your app certified for HIPAA compliance. It is necessary to write a clear privacy policy and keep all necessary data on a HIPAA-compliant cloud server. 

Opt for Encryption 

It is better to integrate ATS (App Transport Security) to force your app to link back-end servers on HTTPS to encrypt the data during transmission. HTTPS provides more protection than HTTP. 

Secure App Environment

You should never send push notifications, SMS, or MMS containing PHI because they are not secure. SMS and MMS cannot be encrypted. Also, it is better to develop the healthcare app in a way that its local session timeouts after a certain period automatically. You need to ensure that most of the app data stores in the secured cloud. 

Also Read : How Much Does It Cost To Develop An mHealth App?

Test for Security

It is better to carry out dynamic and static security tests. You should also do a third-party security audit of your app and show it to a HIPAA expert. Finally, a penetration test is necessary after every update in the app. 

Concluding Lines

Digital healthcare transformation should be backed by data security and protection of patient’s confidential health information. There, HIPAA comes into the picture. HIPAA-compliant app development is complicated and costly. 

It is better to assign the app project to a company with a proven track record of developing customized healthcare apps. Hope this comprehensive guide will be helpful to bring a HIPAA-compliant app for your healthcare organization. 

Solution Analysts is a renowned healthcare app development company. Our experienced developers take care of every detail while developing HIPAA-compliant healthcare apps. We use cutting-edge tools and technologies to make your customized healthcare apps secure and user-friendly. 

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