HIPAA Compliant Mobile App Development Guide

Mobile devices are drastically changing the way healthcare facilities function. The integration of mobile devices into the healthcare industry is driven by the availability of high-performing medical software applications for mobiles. Faster processing, large memory spaces, smaller devices, and an efficient operating system that facilitates complex tasks have led to an intensification of enterprise mobile application development services.

Healthcare hippa api services deal with delicate data, therefore they need to be Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(HIPAA) compliant, always. They have to keep up with this digital revolution and at the same time adhere to the HIPAA Act. In this blog we will try to answer in simple terms, what is HIPAA compliance and how can you develop a HIPAA compliant app for your health facility.


Developing Secure Mobile Apps with HIPAA Compliance

Let us first understand what HIPAA Act is and why is it important? HIPAA Act aims to secure the PHI (Personal Health Information) from unlawful and unauthorized exposure. Therefore, for HIPAA-compliant mobile app development services; developers must identify the kind of information needed and how it will be stored and used in the mobile app.  HIPAA compliant mobile applications may need to store or transfer these types of information:

1)     PHI (Protected Health Information)

PHI Information is information that is individually identifiable. This is health information that is generated, collected, saved, used, or transferred by a covered entity or its business associate during their operations.

The above-mentioned HIPAA-protected information can be in form of electronic/paper bills, insurance, payment information, emails, lab results, name, date of birth, social security number, personal records, scans, etc. To sum up, it also includes any information that can be used to create identity theft.


2)     CHI (Consumer Health Information)

This includes the information received every day in form of data or otherwise from a fitness tracker. Examples are heart rate, calories, the number of steps travelled, etc.

A healthcare mobile app can be in form of an on-demand medicine supply app like Netmeds, or in form of workout apps, diet apps, fitness apps, etc.

While a few apps like Netmeds need to be HIPAA compliant, the rest of the above-mentioned apps do not require to be HIPAA compliant. It is because these apps do not track data reflected in PHI and cannot be transmitted from one device to any covered entity.


6 Important Steps in Development of Health Apps

Complying with HIPAA guidelines is necessary from the perspective of both patients and healthcare service providers. For patients, hipaa compliant texting apps controls guarantee them privacy, security, notification of breaches, and the right to get their health record copies.

For the healthcare providers, proper compliance saves them from hefty penalties, a blow on their reputation, and trust quotient. When developing a healthcare mobile app, take a stepwise approach to achieve an efficient app that works best for both.

Here we list down a few steps to follow when developing your HIPAA compliant app: 

Step 1: PHI Access Control

According to HIPAA, patient information should be restricted and accessible only to those who require it for smooth operations. Such users are assigned unique IDs and allotted privileged access to stop unnecessary entry. Privilege access is granted in accordance with their role in the organization e.g. doctors, lab technicians, admin, etc.

Step 2: Multi-Factor Authentication for Extra Security

Implement multi-factor authentication in form of Login password, One Time Password, Biometric Data, Smart token to establish that the person trying to access is authorized to do so. In cases of emergencies, ePHI access can also be allowed to the user, but only with an immediate review procedure.

Step 3: Data Transmission Security

PHI data encryption is mandatory in transmission as per HIPAA. HTTP protocols, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Transport Layer Security (TLS), or even Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) are a few methods that can be followed for secure data transmission and to safeguard from man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks.

Step 4: Encryption

Encryption makes transmitting the data on the network safe. Unencrypted data can be easily read and hacked by cyber criminals. Without encryption, the information stored in an app can be easily read and misused by hackers. Data if encrypted ensures its changeableness and complete security from Cybercriminals.

Step 5: Data Disposal

PHI needs to be erased from the accessible locations immediately and permanently. Careful disposal of data is important, therefore all the backed up, and archived data should be deleted in a way that it cannot be retrieved.

Staff should be trained to shred and destroy social security numbers, medical procedures, diagnoses, etc. from the devices. Proper employee training and enforcement go a long way in keeping your PHI under compliance.

But at the same time, PHI is valuable and there has to be an imperative backup system that is retrievable. For backing up, data should be stored in encrypted hardware or in a secured data cloud. There should also be a plan in place for disaster recovery so that the business operations do not come to a halt in case of fall-out situations.

Step 6: Audit Controls

Audit control standards ensure that such tools are implemented, that can examine the activities of systems for PHI. The stored PHI must be monitored regularly via relevant means and the

Login and log-out details of each user must be chronicled. This makes you attentive and with supporting evidence, you get information about who accessed the data. The log files should also be audited from time to time to restrict ill use.


Additional Compliance Requirements

Healthcare facilities must be aware of all other compliances apart from HIPAA that are applicable to their operations. These may vary based on geographical location and other factors. Being conscious about them will help you meet the requirements under such compliance regulations. We are listing down a few other codes of practice that may be applicable to you:

1.     Health Level Seven International (HL7) in the US

2.     U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

3.     Personal Information Protection & Electronic Documents Act in Canada

4.     Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH)

5.     General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in EU

6.     Data Protection Act (DPA) in the UK

7.     Data Protection Law Enforcement Directive in EU


The Final Words

Bypassing HIPAA rules and regulations attract massive penalties, fines, and tarnished reputations. Depending upon the kind of breach, the fines may go up to $1.5 million per year. HIPAA compliance is no big task. From executing the BAAs to audits and a proactive approach in application development, HIPAA compliance can be a much stress-free chore, than you thought.

Although there is a lot to adhere to this process, you can easily rest your trust upon top-notch development teams and healthcare app development companies. Seek the best consultation and service for healthcare app development from CONTUS MirrorFly.

CONTUS MirrorFly helps you build a HIPAA compliant workflow with HIPAA security rules of encryption and high-end technologies. You get a complete solution for a protected, private and dependable infrastructure in accordance with the regulatory environments. Not just that, but they have extensive experience to deliver the best quality, new standard healthcare communication app. Speak to the experts to know more.