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A Start-up’s Guide to Developing a HIPAA-Compliant Mobile App
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that covers the use and management of critical patient data. Healthcare App Development firms need to comply with this law and ensure adequate protection for app users against fraud.
In this article, we consider the importance of HIPAA and what you should know about developing a mobile app that protects critical data and complies with this law.
The Importance of HIPAA Compliance for Healthcare App Development
Critical data is a rather loose term that covers many types of data, and this includes protected health information (PHI), which refers to test results, doctors’ bills, and other private medical information. Every healthcare organization deals with this kind of data at some point, which highlights the importance of HIPAA compliance.
In case you are wondering, HIPAA refers to a long lineup of rules that help guide and govern healthcare app development. For instance, it’s against the law to pass health information to another entity without their consent. This applies to all critical data such as billing details, test results, and prescriptions. This act also states that healthcare organizations must inform patients in the case of a breach.
But how might you ensure a healthcare app is fully compliant?
It should go without saying that expertise is needed when it comes to something as important as healthcare app development. However, let’s take a look at some of the most common ways in which you can ensure this app is HIPAA compliant.
7 Steps to Building a HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare App
While you can take certain steps toward HIPAA compliance without assistance, you should still consult a healthcare app development team for proper guidance. The experience of a professional developer will save untold amounts of time and money while ensuring every aspect of HIPAA compliance is integrated into the app.
Here’s a list of steps that healthcare app development teams will follow:
1. Authentication and “Physical” Protection
Authentication is something that needs to be enforced, and access should not be possible on a healthcare app without authentication. This multifactor system can not only protect the network and backend of apps, but also the devices on which they run.
Authentication is not a new technique, but this is exactly why the right system can provide a powerful wall of security for healthcare apps. Just so you know, most modern apps use a variety of means to help authenticate users, such as email or SMS confirmation, and these systems can be implemented within a healthcare app.
2. Encrypting Data Before Transmission
Health data must be encrypted in transmissions for a healthcare app to remain HIPAA compliant. This means an app must use SSL and HTTP protocols and end-to-end encryptions for any instance in which data is being transferred.
This same theory/practice is applied to passwords, and it helps safeguard data from middleman attacks that can seriously compromise a healthcare organization.
3. Protect Against Tampering of Information
HIPAA compliance requires every healthcare app to deploy a system in which data and the collection or storage of data cannot be changed in any way. This also requires developers to implement ways in which the app can detect attempts to tamper with data either intentionally or by accident.
One way in which you might address this side of healthcare app development is to define user roles/privileges and restrict access to certain areas of the infrastructure.
4. Disposal of Expired Information
It’s also a requirement of HIPAA compliance that all expired information is disposed of permanently. In other words, data should not be held longer than necessary, and this unused information must be deleted in such a way that it cannot be retrieved.
As you can imagine, it’s not within the interest of a healthcare business to hold this information long term. However, there needs to be a clear strategy and system that will ensure such information is removed from the app in a safe and secure way.
5. Installing a System for Backup and Restore
Healthcare app development teams will always use a hosting provider that provides a backup and delivery service. At the very least, these experts install backup and restore software to the app, which ensures data is never lost in the case of an emergency. This backup process is also used for messages and emails, so that important data can be recovered and viewed in spite of any unforeseen accidents.
6. Focus on HIPAA-Compliant Third-Party Solutions
Healthcare apps should always try to focus on HIPAA-compliant third-party solutions. That is to say, some infrastructure is already compliant with the HIPAA act, and it makes sense to use these solutions rather than trying to build one from scratch.
Just so you know, this type of software is called Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS), and these types of solutions are common for healthcare app development in general.
7. Regular Maintenance and App Updates
Security should be an ongoing effort, and regular maintenance is needed to keep a healthcare app safe and secure. This means the app will need regular updates and anything less is likely to increase the risk of a security breach.
It’s also necessary to test a healthcare app from time to time, and this is especially important after any updates. App developers are often contracted to manage this side of the process when they complete the initial build and launch the final product.
HIPAA compliance is a prerequisite for healthcare app development. While regular maintenance is needed, it’s important to have a robust foundation that protects the app from the very beginning. However, building a mobile app is a huge undertaking, and an expert hand is especially needed to ensure this app is fully HIPAA compliant.