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 (EHR) 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:
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.
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.
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.
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