We hope that you are well aware of HIPPA by now, after going through our previous blog on Why HIPAA-Compliance is Mandatory For Creating Healthcare Applications, which brought up interesting questions like how to develop a HIPAA-compliant app and what is PHI? It seems that many people aren’t aware of what is required when handling patient information and how much access individual employees need to certain documents.
Therefore we will be discussing some of the things that should be kept in mind when working with patients at any medical facility and when developing any app or software related to patients’ data. If you are a developer or an owner of a healthcare app, a healthcare provider, or a healthcare business associate, this blog post will get you covered with the development and security requirements needed for developing a healthcare app.
Table of Contents
- Things to know before Developing a HIPAA-Compliance App
- What is PHI?
- PHI Identifiers
- Data Security?
- Administrative Data Security
- Technical Data Security
- Physical Data Security
- Steps to Make a Healthcare Application HIPAA-Compliant
- Step 1: Select and Implement a Backend Service that is HIPAA Compliant.
- Step 2: Separate Protected Health Information (PHI) from the Rest of the Data.
- Step 3: Throughout the Encryption.
- Step 4: Security Testing of the Application.
- Step 5: Long-Term Strategy Implementation with Logging.
- Step 6:Identity and Access Management
- Step 7: Ensure Data Integrity
- Step 8: Proper Disposal of Data
- Step 9: Business Associate Agreement
- Bitsol Technologies’ HIPAA-Compliant App Development
- Let’s get started with the blog post and the topics covered in it.
Things to know before Developing a HIPAA-Compliance App
- What is PHI?
In the United States, medical information that can identify a person and was created while providing healthcare services is called protected health information (PHI). PHI must be secured and kept confidential when developing web or mobile apps that comply with HIPAA regulations.
- PHI Identifiers
- Fax Number
- Phone number
- Social Security Number
- Medical Record Number
- Account Number
- License/ Certificate Number
- IP Address
- Health Insurance Number
- Serial Number & Device ID
- Web URL
- Full face photo
- License Plate
- Any Other Unique Identity Number
3. Data Security?
There are three essential types of data security.
- Physical Data Security
- Technical Data Security
- Administrative Data Security
Developers, who develop healthcare apps, work mostly with technical data safeguards. But while creating a HIPAA-compliant healthcare app, you, as a covered company or business associate, also need to consider administrative and physical data security. Let’s quickly review each one.
Physical Data Security
In most cases, this refers to restricting physical access to servers and other pieces of technology that could house PHI or facilitate the transfer of sensitive data. It focuses on physical safeguards, policies, and procedures to guard against unauthorized entry and environmental and natural hazards for a covered entity’s electronic information systems and connected structures and equipment.
Technical Data Security
It mainly focuses on fully encrypting any data that can be sent between servers or devices or stored there. Technical safety measures include the following:
- Process for emergency access
- A special user identity
- Automatic termination
Following the minimal needs can be another recommended practice in this regard. Avoid sending PHI information in push notifications and letting it leak in backups and logs as well.
Administrative Data Security
Administrative data protection measures include management of people, upkeep of privacy policies and practices, notices of privacy practices, etc. These safeguards manage the development, implementation, and maintenance of security measures to protect ePHI.
- When developing HIPAA-compliant apps, Information Access Management is crucial to make sure that users have access to the necessary e-PHI.
- Specific users shouldn’t be allowed to access any ePHI for a given patient other than the ePHI that pertains to their job function.
- Employees must undergo frequent training to become familiar with the security rules of e-PHI.
- A contingency plan must be implemented in the event of a breach to alert the impacted parties.
Steps to Develop a HIPAA-Compliant App
Now that HIPAA compliance is necessary for your healthcare application, whether you’re developing a chatbot or a doctor’s appointment app, it’s time to delve into the details. You can refer to our previous blog “Why HIPAA Compliance is Necessary?” to learn more. In this section, we will go through each step of developing a HIPAA-compliant healthcare app.
Step 1: Select and Implement a Backend Service that is HIPAA Compliant
As we know, apps do not exist in isolation, and most of them connect to a web application or web API. Healthcare applications are no exception – they need to connect to cloud services that comply with HIPAA regulations.
Thankfully, there are plenty of HIPAA-compliant cloud services available for you to choose from. All major cloud service providers offer a HIPAA-compliant backend. You can choose from the following reliable players:
Step 2: Separate Protected Health Information (PHI) from the Rest of the Data
When developing a HIPAA-compliant app, it is advisable to keep the patient’s health information in a separate database. By doing so, you can avoid the need to constantly encrypt or decrypt all data, which can impact the performance of the application.
Step 3: Transport Encryption
When handling patients’ data, it is essential to adhere to the best security practices for encryption. It is recommended to use various levels of obfuscation and encryption. Transport encryption is a must for healthcare applications. All e-PHI must be encrypted when transmitted over the internet or any other communication network, and special safeguards must be implemented to ensure that the data is not altered during transit. Additionally, if the data is at rest (i.e., not shared with anyone), it must also be encrypted if it is stored on a SaaS or cloud server.
Step 4: Security Testing of the Application
Testing your application is crucial after every update. You should test various aspects of your app, including functionality, security, and performance, both dynamically and statically.
It is important to keep track of every time a client signs in to your system. You should be aware of every action taken with sensitive data within HIPAA mobile apps. The ability to monitor these actions can be provided through code, tools, or procedural techniques.
Step 6: Long-Term Strategy Implementation with Logging
In the end, it is essential to establish procedures for ongoing monitoring of HIPAA-related issues because apps keep evolving, and so should security. You will need to track PHI access, re-evaluate security measures and their effectiveness, detect security issues, and assess potential threats to ePHI.
Step 7: Identity and Access Management
To meet user authentication requirements, it is advisable to use a password or PIN. Additionally, you can consider using a biometric identity system or a smart card. Keep this factor in mind while developing your app. It is important to note that the least secure method for HIPAA compliance is to allow users to log in to the application using their email addresses.
Step 8: Ensure Data Integrity
To ensure that ePHI within HIPAA-compliant software is not unintentionally changed or corrupted, mechanisms must be in place to maintain the integrity of the data. According to HIPAA regulations, integrity guarantees that the data being accessed has not been tampered with, lost, or accidentally altered in any way.
When developing HIPAA-compliant mobile apps, it is crucial to establish an infrastructure that ensures data collection, storage, and transmission are secure and cannot be changed in any manner, whether intentionally or accidentally. The first step in this process is to ensure that the system can identify and report any unwanted data tampering, even if the smallest amount of data is modified. Security measures such as encryption, regular backups, access permissions, and well-defined user roles and privileges can help maintain data integrity.
Step 9: Proper Disposal of Data
Proper disposal of archived and backup material that has outlived its purpose is critical. It is essential to securely delete all unnecessary data to ensure it cannot be recovered. Disposal of PHI is one of the HIPAA requirements for the software. When PHI is no longer needed, disposal means it must be destroyed. However, if there are copies of the information in any backup, it cannot be considered disposed of. Therefore, preventive measures must be in place to prevent accidental or unlawful use and disclosure of PHI, including those associated with its disposal.
Step 10: Business Associate Agreement
Any health plan, healthcare clearinghouse, or healthcare provider that conducts transactions subject to HIPAA regulations is considered a HIPAA Covered Entity. When a Covered Entity contracts with a third party for tasks, activities, or services that involve the disclosure of PHI, they do so with the assistance of a Business Associate.
Before disclosing PHI to a Business Associate, a Covered Entity must sign a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement. This contract should specify the PHI that is being provided to the Business Associate, as well as the Business Associate’s permitted uses and disclosures of PHI, such as to subcontractors.
Bitsol Technologies’ HIPAA-Compliant App Development
We have developed HIPAA-compliant healthcare apps and software, and we’re here to help. Whether you have inquiries about developing a HIPAA-compliant app or software, need assistance with planning, designing, or developing your application, or simply want to know how long it will take, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
At Bitsol Technologies, our team is ready to assist you at every stage of the development process, from ideation to launch. We understand the importance of compliance and can help you ensure that your app or software meets all HIPAA requirements. Whether you’re a healthcare provider, business associate, or member of a covered entity, we’re here to help you make your app HIPAA-compliant. If you’re starting a healthcare business, we can help you get off the ground. Contact us today to learn more.
Due to the sensitivity of medical data, any breach or inconsistency may have a severe financial and practical impact on patients, software vendors, and healthcare organizations. HIPAA-compliant app development makes sure that creators don’t break any industry regulations that can raise data privacy issues. HIPAA-Compliant apps are the most trusted app from the perspective of the users.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you require assistance in launching your healthcare business. By utilizing strategic thinking and planning, you can apply your knowledge and create a secure healthcare application that has the potential to achieve great success.
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