Why HIPAA Compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps

Why HIPAA Compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps
Why your healthcare app should follow HIPAA rules and guidelines_baner
The healthcare sector has progressed enormously in this era of digitalization. Global spending on healthcare services is on the rise and this industry has a bright future for sure. Healthcare providers are investing in advanced technologies to ensure high-quality services to their patients. Users of mobile app are able to actively keep track of basic health stats such as consulting a physician over the app, measuring their heart rate, checking their glucose level, BMI level, booking appointments, Accessibility of Electronic Health Records both to patients and Physicians, etc.
But what comes in the picture here is the security of data. It is one of the biggest concerns of the healthcare industry. Data breaches, cyber-attacks, hacking, etc. are common today. They can put the sensitive health data of patients at risk, causing massive losses to healthcare organizations. This data can be at high risk especially while using a healthcare mobile app . So, healthcare organizations need to be more vigilant of their IT and cyber-security practices. In order to avoid theft, fraud, Misuse, identity of the patient data, all healthcare apps in US have to be HIPAA compliant and strictly abide by the HIPAA rules and regulations.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The Act includes a set of minimum security and privacy standards for protection, confidentiality and availability of sensitive patient information and their medical records. It is issued by the federal regulators. Initially, the purpose of enacting this act was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. healthcare organizations. Over time, many rules were added to the Act and the purpose was to protect the individually identifiable health information i.e. Protected Health Information (PHI). These rules influence the working and security of healthcare mobile apps.
The entities covered under HIPAA are healthcare clearinghouses, health plans, and healthcare providers that make use of electronic media for transmitting data like health claims, referral authorizations, coordination of benefits, etc. These entities may comprise of individual practitioners, small or large organizations, institutions, research centres and government agencies as well.

Why HIPAA Compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps?

It is federally mandated for the healthcare organizations and other healthcare IT service providers (like healthcare mobile app development services, web portal development services, etc.), to adhere to HIPAA for data privacy. So let us understand how HIPAA compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps:
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Data Privacy

The importance of data capturing has increased over the years for improving the overall healthcare operations, with the use of advanced technologies like the Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, etc. Personal information of hundreds of patients, their contact details and their medical reports are recorded and saved digitally by many hospital bodies. So, data privacy is important to ensure that only relevant information is shared with the right people and at the right time. This also helps to build trust among the patients.
HIPAA compliant apps abide by strict rules to ensure data privacy. They have to display a link in the privacy policy of the mobile app, while the app is downloaded by the users. The apps take consent from the patients or users before using their information. Also, the users are informed about how their data will be used. These apps are hosted on HIPAA compliant servers for ensuring that all the HIPAA standards are met correctly.

Security of the medical data

Data breaches can be devastating for patients, hospitals and similar healthcare systems. There could be insurance frauds, extortion or identity thefts and once this data is hacked or lost, it can be disastrous for both patient and Healthcare providers. Hence it is of utmost importance to secure the data of patients, hospital staff or other back-office data.
A HIPAA compliant mobile app ensures that healthcare data remains safe and secure. The users of these apps can access the data only through a secure login and 2 factor authentications are applied as well for more security. All the data presented in the app can be only accessed using a secure PHI key. Also, in case the mobile device is stolen or lost, the personal user information cannot be accessed easily due to the advanced security and encryption. Data being stored on database servers are also encrypted so that the medical data cannot be easily accessible.

Secure data transmission

In many large Healthcare Facilities having multiple branches, the medical data needs to be shared with many Physicians or concerned authorities. If such a hospital uses a mobile app for data transmission, it must be in accordance with HIPAA rules and regulations. To ensure that the user data in the app isn’t accessed inappropriately or modified abruptly, the data should be audited from time to time. In case the patients are monitored remotely through wearable technology, IoT or AI, only the necessary data will be transferred to ensure the security of data. There are integrity control mechanisms in place in the communication networks of the apps.
A HIPAA compliant mobile app ensures that the amount of sensitive data that is stored on them has access limitations when the device is carried outside the premises of the hospital. Also, when these apps are deleted by the users, any related health data is deleted completely from the device. It is noteworthy that HIPAA laws apply only to the apps using PHI i.e. protected health information. So, the data transferred from an app that does not deal with personally identifiable information, is not needed to be protected under HIPAA.

Notification of medical records breaches

There is a possibility of sensitive Healthcare data getting fraudulently accessed by hackers. If the Healthcare Mobile app is HIPAA compliant, then it needs to notify affected individuals about the breach of data without unreasonable delay and should not be sent later than 60 days. So it is mandatory for an app that adheres to HIPAA to abide by data breach notification laws. Under these laws, the eligible data breaches are obliged to alert the users or relevant parties.
Some of the data breaches may not cause serious harm to hospitals or medical organizations. In case any disclosure of information, unauthorized access to it or loss of personal information is bound to cause serious damage, such breaches are called eligible data breaches. They can result in financial harm or even harm the reputation of the healthcare organizations. So, the mobile app they use should be HIPAA compliant and send timely notifications to users.

Key Takeaways:

Data is the biggest asset in any industry today and healthcare organizations are no exception to it. Today, most hospitals use diverse technologies and mobile apps for providing better services to their patients. However, the medical data can be vulnerable to threats. So, it is necessary for the healthcare apps and systems to follow HIPAA guidelines. Under HIPAA compliance, the covered entities need to put physical, technical and administrative safeguards for PHI in place and thus ensure privacy, confidentiality, integrity and security of the data.
Found this blog helpful in understanding the significance of HIPAA rules in healthcare apps? Please comment below or drop us a line at sales.enquiry@biz4solutions.com to let us know your view.

How Intelligent Healthcare Management Systems Are A Boon to Clinics and Hospitals?

How Intelligent Healthcare Management Systems Are A Boon to Clinics and Hospitals?
How Intelligent Healthcare Management Systems Are A Boon to Clinics and Hospitals?
As smartphone technology gets infinitely smarter over time, healthcare apps are becoming equally smart, multi-functional and user-friendly. Until 2017, there were over 325,000 recorded healthcare mobile apps in the top app stores around the world with Android topping the list (source: research2guidance). The major driving forces behind this exponential increase is the ever-inflating adoption of smartphones, coupled with heavy investment in the digital health market which fuels healthcare mobile app development.
Many medical facilities are adopting innovations in healthcare mobility solutions in order to be compliant with various healthcare regulations and standards like HIPAA, ACA, etc. Some of them are adopting the digital trends to provide quality healthcare to their patients. With the growing healthcare needs of people across the globe, not only physically but also remotely (through smartphones), healthcare mobility solutions for doctors and practices can be a blessing.
Medical healthcare professionals could face an abundance of challenges if they choose not to adopt digitalization/healthcare mobility solutions such as:
  • Haphazard appointment management and scheduling systems
  • Suboptimal experience for patients while dealing with the availability of physicians
  • Shoddy invoicing and payment processing consuming a large amount of time
  • Medical records and history are scattered across places, and there is no centralized medical history for each individual at one place
  • Patients are unable to trust the healthcare professionals due to lack of proper communication and information
To counter the above challenges, hospitals and healthcare professionals should go for Healthcare Management Systems. These systems are designed to provide a solution to manage the practice and processes pertaining to hospitals thereby improving the quality of patient care. It improves the overall operational efficiency of hospital staff. There is effective exchange of information between hospital/physicians and patients, thus improving communication between facility and patients.

Use Case

Consider the scenario, where a patient wishes to book an appointment with an orthopaedic doctor. With the absence of healthcare mobile apps, a patient would be confronted with the harrowing experience of visiting a clinic for an appointment, which leaches on valuable time. Now, with the advancements in digital technology, we can book the appointments through the mobile app itself in the comfort of our very homes.
book the appointments through the mobile app
This is just one of the arrays of features that Healthcare Management Systems can provide. There is a plethora of other features available in a Healthcare Management System, which we will look into further.

Healthcare Management System

The features of an efficient Healthcare Management System are manifold and doctors can use them in an abundance of situations as below:
features of Healthcare Management System

Centralized patient history

  • You will be able to gain access to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). You can bid farewell to the out-dated paper records and step into the digital age.
  • It can segregate past procedure information which is done at local clinics and medical history, both of which are kept separate from each other.
  • It is designed in an efficient manner which mandates for medical information to be input only once. After that, this data is stored in a centralized server which can be accessed easily.

Efficiently managed appointments

  • Your patients will be able to schedule appointments online in accordance with the slots provided by you. They can also cancel and reschedule the appointments. An HMS also acts as a calendar for doctors where the schedule can be checked and managed, if needed. Timely reminders are another advantage of this system.
  • It can provide Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) clubbed with Patient Scheduler that is customized based on practice needs.

Dedicated interaction between patient and physician

  • It provides patient-doctor communication feature which acts as an instant messaging tool between the two parties. It avoids the middleman and provides healthcare, even in the most remote areas.

Hospital and pharmacy management solutions

  • These solutions for hospitals eliminate errors due to manual involvement, tracks pharmacy inventory online thereby avoiding pilferage of medications. It has better control over the inventory thereby improving profit margins. It promotes efficient workflow processes as well.

E-prescriptions

  • Ability for the physicians to e-prescribe a prescription to a patient thereby eliminating prescription drug errors. It also speeds up the medical settlement process.

Chronic care management

  • This solution facilitates physicians to share the care plan with patients. Patients can key in their exact health status daily. Clinical staff gets access to real-time data along with remote monitoring of vitals.

Reminder feature for patients

  • Reminds the patients to take care of their illnesses by notifying to consume medicines at right times.

Final Verdict

Healthcare consumers are continually showing increased usage of digital technology, with numbers exponentially rising with every passing year. Market for healthcare mobile app development is growing at an enormous speed. Research shows that this market will reach $26 billion by 2017 (source: research2guidance). Healthcare mobile apps and healthcare mobility solutions are being increasingly sought out by doctors and consumers alike.

Author Bio

Manisha Bathia is a Project Manager at Biz4Solutions with 14+ years of experience in Project Management, Quality Assurance and Test Management in IT-related services. She has expertise in various domains like Healthcare, Finance, Water technologies, Transportation, Telecom, etc. She has experience in defining and implementing quality management strategies to ensure exceptional delivery of software projects.