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Healthcare Application with HIPAA

With a huge advancement in technologies in the past years, human preferences have changed. People have rapidly accepted and taken in use healthcare applications be it for Ordering medicine online, Tracking health conditions, Remote patient monitoring, Health imaging and visualization or Patient data transfer. It is really important for the Application to be compatible with the user pain points and it is even more important for the application to follow federal laws enacted by the government like HIPAA compliance.

In 2022 alone, healthcare companies have paid over $2 million in penalties following HIPAA non-compliance. The Office of Civil Rights levies fines on several other small-scale HIPAA breaches too. Once you’ve had a HIPAA breach, your business gets listed on OCR’s Wall of Shame with details on the violation, including the penalty, date, and number of individuals affected.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, is a US statute that regulates the flow of healthcare data. The HIPAA Privacy Rule standards address the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information (known as Protected Health Information or PHI) by entities subject to the Privacy Rule. The following types of individuals and organizations are subject to the Privacy Rule:

Healthcare providers: Every healthcare provider, regardless of size of practice, who electronically transmits health information in connection with certain transactions. These transactions include:

  • Claims

  • Benefit eligibility inquiries

  • Referral authorization requests

  • Other transactions for which HHS has established standards under the HIPAA Transactions Rule.

Health plans:It include:

  • Health, dental, vision, and prescription drug insurers

  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)

  • Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare + Choice, and Medicare supplement insurers

  • Long-term care insurers (excluding nursing home fixed-indemnity policies)

  • Employer-sponsored group health plans

  • Government- and church-sponsored health plans

  • Multi-employer health plans

Exception: A group health plan with fewer than 50 participants that is administered solely by the employer that established and maintains the plan is not a covered entity.

Healthcare clearinghouses: Entities that process nonstandard information they receive from another entity into a standard (i.e., standard format or data content), or vice versa. In most instances, healthcare clearinghouses will receive individually identifiable health information only when they are providing these processing services to a health plan or healthcare provider as a business associate.

Business associates: A person or organization (other than a member of a covered entity’s workforce) using or disclosing individually identifiable health information to perform or provide functions, activities, or services for a covered entity. These functions, activities, or services include:

  • Claims processing

  • Data analysis

  • Utilization review

  • Billing

HIPAA Security Rule

While the HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards PHI, the Security Rule protects a subset of information covered by the Privacy Rule. To comply with the HIPAA Security Rule, all covered entities must:

  • Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all e-PHI

  • Detect and safeguard against anticipated threats to the security of the information

  • Protect against anticipated impermissible uses or disclosures that are not allowed by the rule

  • Certify compliance by their workforce.

HIPAA Compliance Rules for a Mobile or Web App HIPAA outlines four major rules for patient data protection, in general. These include:

  • Privacy Rule

  • Security Rule

  • Enforcement Rule

  • Breach Notification Rule

For an app developer’s perspective, the security rule is of maximum importance as it outlines several physical and technical safeguards one needs to implement for HIPAA compliance.

Steps to Make the App HIPAA Compliant

Mobile devices are easier to penetrate making it hard for mobile app developers to develop a HIPAA compliant app. Here is a HIPAA compliance checklist that can help you in meeting HIPAA compliance requirements while building a healthcare mobile app.

  • Ensure that your app supports unique user authentication

  • Ensure that all data collected and transmitted is encrypted

  • Build an automatic sign off feature that logs a user out after a specific period of inactivity

  • Develop remote wipe capabilities for protecting critical PHI data

  • Deploy regular security and app updates

  • Create a mechanism for audit logging

  • Embed automatic data backup and syncing capabilities

Besides having an idea and a development strategy for your healthcare solution, it’s fundamental to ensure you meet the requirements of mobile app HIPAA compliance. Primarily, focus on the security measures to protect PHI and provide data integrity.

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