- November 22, 2022 by Sakshi Aggarwal
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If you’re in the healthcare industry, then you know that data privacy and security are of utmost importance. In order to protect patients’ information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was put into place. This act sets forth strict rules and regulations for how patient data must be handled. As technology has progressed, so has the way we store and share patient information.
With the advent of healthcare apps, patient data is now often stored on devices and in the cloud. This poses a new challenge for HIPAA compliance.
In this blog post, we will explore how to build a HIPAA compliant healthcare app. We will discuss the features that such an app must have and how a healthcare mobile app development company ensures that patient data is protected at all times.
What is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal rule that requires strict confidentiality for specific medical information. The act was passed in 1996 to protect patients' privacy and ensure the security of their medical records.
HIPAA compliance is mandatory for all healthcare organizations, including apps that store or transmit patient data. To be HIPAA compliant, an app must implement safeguards to protect patient data's confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
What Should You Understand About HIPAA Compliance?
PHI ([Public Health Information)It is any information that can be used to identify an individual and that is related to that individual’s health or healthcare. This includes, but is not restricted to, details such as:
To protect the privacy of PHI, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) established a set of rules and regulations that covered entities must follow. Covered entities include health plans, healthcare providers, and healthcare clearinghouses.
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Health Insurance Information
- Medical Records and other health information
The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires covered entities to take measures to safeguard the confidentiality of PHI, while the HIPAA Security Rule sets standards for electronic PHI.
CHI (Consumer Health Information)It includes any information about a person's health that can be used to identify them. This can include things like their medical history, test results, and treatments. Keeping CHI safe and secure is important because it's very sensitive information. If it falls into the wrong hands, it could be used to exploit someone's health condition or even steal their identity.
There are strict rules about how CHI can be collected, used, and disclosed. HIPAA compliance requires businesses to protect CHI from unauthorized access, use, and disclosure. This includes ensuring that only authorized personnel can access CHI, using encryption to protect data in transit, and having strict policies and procedures for handling CHI.
Why is HIPAA Important?
When it comes to healthcare mobile app development, HIPAA is indeed quite crucial. Here is why!
Patients are often unaware of the importance of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to their overall health and well-being. Here are five key reasons why HIPAA is so important for patients:
- Protects Patients' Privacy
Under HIPAA, patient information is protected from being shared without the patient's consent. This means that patients can be confident that their medical information will not be shared with anyone without their permission.
Provides Patients Control Over Their Health InformationPatients have the right to request access to their medical records and corrections to any incorrect or outdated information. This allows patients to stay in control of their health information and ensures they have the most accurate information about their health.
Ensures that Patients Receive Quality CareHIPAA requires that covered entities, such as hospitals and clinics, provide patients with high-quality care. This includes ensuring that medical staff is properly trained and that facilities are clean and safe.
Encourages Interaction Between Patients & Their Healthcare ProvidersHIPAA requires covered entities to provide patients with clear and concise explanations of their rights and responsibilities regarding their health information. This promotes open communication between patients and their healthcare providers, essential for providing quality care.
Protects Patients' RightsHIPAA gives patients certain rights concerning their health information, such as the right to file a complaint if they believe their privacy rights have been violated. Patients also have the right to file a civil lawsuit if they suffer damages due to a covered entity's violation of HIPAA.
The benefits of having a HIPAA-compliant hospital are many. Here are some of them:
- Improved Patient Satisfaction
When patients feel that their privacy is respected and protected, they are more likely to be satisfied with their overall experience. This can lead to improved patient outcomes and increased loyalty to your hospital.
Enhanced SecurityA HIPAA-compliant hospital must have physical, technical, and administrative safeguards to protect patient information. This can help prevent data breaches and other potential security threats.
Reduced Liability RisksIf a hospital fails to comply with HIPAA regulations, it could face significant financial penalties. Hospitals can avoid these costly penalties by ensuring compliance and reducing their overall liability risks.
Improved EfficiencyA well-run HIPAA compliance program can help streamline many of the hospital’s processes and procedures related to patient information management. This can lead to increased efficiencies and cost savings for the hospital.
Attracting New PatientsPatients have many choices when selecting a provider in today's competitive healthcare market. Hospitals that demonstrate a commitment to protecting patient privacy may have an advantage in attracting new patients
Features of a HIPAA-Compliant Application
There are a few key features using which a mobile app developer can make a mobile application HIPAA compliant. These include:
- Secure Login: This means that users must have a unique login and password in order to access the app. The data should also be encrypted so that it is not accessible to anyone who does not have the proper credentials.
- Access Controls: There must be a way to restrict who has access to certain information. This helps to ensure that only those who need to see the information can do so.
- Data Encryption: All data must be encrypted both in transit and at rest. This helps to ensure that no one can access the information without the proper authorization.
- Audit Logs: There must be a way to track who accessed what information and when. This helps to ensure that only authorized individuals are accessing the data and helps with troubleshooting if there are any issues.
Technologies Used for HIPAA App Development
HIPAA-compliant mobile apps must use technologies that protect patient data from unauthorized access. These include:
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt data in transit
- 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to encrypt data at rest
- User authentication and authorization controls to restrict access to app features and data
- Role-based access controls to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data
- Audit logs to track user activity and detect potential security breaches
Businesses must also ensure that the app is developed in a secure environment by a reliable application development company and that all third-party services used are HIPAA compliant.
How to Deploy Your HIPAA-Compliant Mobile App?
Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of facilitating HIPAA compliance in your healthcare app, whether you're developing a chatbot or a doctor's appointment mobile app. Here are all the necessary steps:
Step 1: Pick and Implement HIPAA-as-a-Service Backend
The first step is to choose and implement a HIPAA-as-a-Service backend. This will ensure that your Protected Health Information (PHI) is stored securely and complies with HIPAA regulations. Several companies offer HIPAA-as-a-Service, so it's essential to research and choose the one that best meets your needs.
Step 2: Separate PHI from Other Data
PHI includes any information that can be used to identify an individual and that is associated with health or healthcare. There are a few ways to keep PHI separate from other app data:
- One way is to use a separate database for PHI. This ensures that PHI is not mixed in with other app data and that only authorized personnel can access it.
- Another way is to use encryption to protect PHI. This ensures that even if someone were to gain access to the data, they would not be able to read it without the proper decryption key.
- Finally, you can also use access control measures to limit who has access to PHI. This could include requiring users to login with a unique username and password or using role-based access control only to allow certain users to view or edit PHI.
Step 3: Encrypt Throughout
Encryption is key to keeping your app HIPAA compliant, as it ensures that PHI is not accessible to unauthorized individuals. There are a few different ways to encrypt data, but the most important thing is to ensure that all PHI is encrypted both in transit and at rest. This means that any time data is sent from one location to another, it should be encrypted.
Step 4: Run Audit Tests
After you have your mobile app built and ready to go, the next step is to run an app audit and penetration test to check for potential vulnerabilities. This is important because if there are any security holes in your app, hackers could exploit them to gain access to sensitive patient data.
Step 5: Implement a Long-Term Strategy with Logging
Now that you've followed all the steps necessary to deploy your HIPAA-compliant mobile app, it's time to implement your long-term strategy. This includes logging all user activity within the app, so you can track compliance and ensure that PHI is being protected at all times.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a HIPAA Compliant Application?
The cost of building a HIPAA-compliant application can vary depending on the features and functionality required. However, it is typically more expensive to develop a HIPAA-compliant application than a non-compliant one. This is because many additional security and privacy measures must be implemented to meet HIPAA standards.
Generally speaking, you can expect to spend anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 on development costs. Contact a professional mobile app development company for a quote if you need help determining how much it will cost to build your specific app.
Building a HIPAA-compliant mobile app can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create an app that is both compliant and user-friendly.
Remember to test your app thoroughly before launch, and always keep up-to-date on the latest HIPAA regulations to ensure continued compliance. It is always good to hire a trusted mobile app development company to help you with your project.
This is because only expert mobile app developers can help you with your HIPAA projects and deliver you a feature-rich app. If you are looking for better healthcare mobile application developer, then contact us at [email protected]
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I ensure my app is HIPAA compliant?
So, how do you make sure your app is HIPAA compliant? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure all data is encrypted. Any PHI that is stored on the app should be encrypted so that it can't be accessed by unauthorized individuals.
- Implement security measures. You'll need to put in place measures to prevent unauthorized access to PHI, as well as establish procedures for handling data in the event of a security breach.
- Give users control over their data. Allow users to view, change, or delete their PHI as needed.
- Keep track of activity. Keep logs of who accesses PHI and when so that you can monitor for any suspicious activity.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your healthcare app is HIPAA compliant and protect the privacy of your users' data.
Is There a Certification That Ensures HIPAA Compliance?
There is no official certification that guarantees HIPAA compliance, but there are a number of ways to ensure that your mobile app is compliant. First, you should make sure that all data is encrypted and stored securely.
You should also have a policy in place for handling patient data and ensuring that only authorized personnel has access to it. Finally, you should have a process for regularly auditing your app to ensure that it is still compliant.
What are the benefits of HIPAA compliant apps?
There are many benefits of using HIPAA-compliant apps, including the following:
- They help to protect patient privacy by ensuring that all data is encrypted and stored securely.
- They can help improve communication between patients and healthcare providers and provide a more efficient way of managing medical records.
- They can also help to reduce costs associated with paper records and transcription services.
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