Ensuring Adherence to HIPAA for Mobile Apps

Keshav Jeet

The 2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey found out that 90% of the 200 healthcare provider employees acting as respondents have made use of mobile devices to increase patient engagement.

Healthcare apps are rapidly gaining traction as the world moves towards technologically advanced methods of maintaining and managing health standards.

These apps not only help the patients with their medical information, diet, and fitness routine but also enable healthcare providers to communicate better with staff, access medical records, and deliver customer-centric care.

However, the healthcare technology sector is plagued with vulnerabilities and security concerns. Personal medical data on an app is sensitive information and its safety is a matter of concern for healthcare providers. This is why building a HIPAA compliant mobile app is imperative for healthcare providers that are leveraging technology to engage patients.

With increased threats of cyber attacks, the Protected Health Information(PHI) must be safe at all times for patients to trust the healthcare providers online services.

This information needs to be collected by the business associate of the healthcare provider and linked to the individual, making it a matter of privacy.

A HIPAA compliant mobile app reflects that the provider is equipped to handle the patient’s PHI with no risk of data breaches and cyber attacks.

The breakdown of a HIPAA compliant healthcare app

HIPAA compliance is based upon the security & privacy rules that cover the basic safety of the patient’s information. The privacy rule deals with the PHI and the provider who has to ensure its safety.

On the other hand, the security rule is concerned with three protection categories (administrative, technical & physical) that lay down the guidelines for the information which should be electronically protected.

For HIPAA compliance in application development, the healthcare providers must understand that an app can never be fully protected but the risks involved in its security can be drastically mitigated.

Following some standard practices and adhering to the basics can help them in building an app that complies with the HIPAA and ensures information safety.

  • 1. Developing the healthcare application

It’s important to understand the risks involved in building the mobile app before starting with the development. Hiring a professional healthcare app development agency like TechJini mitigates security risks with the team’s domain expertise and experience. A good application offers the users an experience that enables them to easily navigate through the healthcare provider’s offerings and is also HIPAA compliant.

  • 2. Securing a user’s personal data

Encrypting the user’s information is an important step to achieve HIPAA compliance. After the data is gathered, it should be encrypted through different networks during the transmission process. This information can either be stored temporarily or saved on a server over a network. This type of encryption protects this information without the interference of any third party in the system, lowering the risk of security breaches.

  • 3. Log off when done

With so many users forgetting to log off their applications, it is necessary for the health app to automatically log off the user. When a user forgets to log off, the information can be easily accessed by cyber attackers or identity thieves which can be misused by somebody else. For a HIPAA compliant mobile app, it becomes essential that the user’s personal information is secure at all times even when they are not accessing it.

  • 4. Unique user authentication

A unique and strong password must be incorporated to protect personal information from being hijacked by data thieves. It also serves as a significant factor in deciding the amount of security that a user will get for their information. Easy and commonplace passwords can be recognized by cyber attackers leading to a data breach.

  • 5. Backing up the data

For HIPAA compliance in application development, healthcare providers must incorporate a system of data backup. This backup can be taken on a server for storing it securely as the user doesn’t always have a secure network while accessing the application.

With the backup feature, the user can access their information if there’s a technical issue that wipes it off or if the application faces any security concerns that might threaten the security of the user’s information.

  • 6. Final test of Security

For the application to be fully prepared for HIPAA compliance, it is necessary to test it thoroughly for all possible security breaches. Different tests that are static and dynamic in nature must be carried out, and it is crucial that a HIPAA professional looks into the documentation and details of the app. Even after every update of the app, there must be tests to ensure that the standards of security are met and HIPAA compliance is still in place.

Following these practices will help healthcare providers to manage compliance of their mobile application with HIPAA. Ensuring the safety of personal data is crucial, and the failure to protect this data can lead to serious consequences for both the service providers and the user.

There are major fines involved with the inability to comply with HIPAA standards including civil penalties ranging from $100 to $5000.

Covering your app under the scope of HIPAA can be a tedious task and TechJini, one of the world’s top healthcare app development companies, can enable you to implement a HIPAA compliant mobile app.

We follow the HIPAA guidelines and ensure the highest security and good data encryption while following stringent quality standards. Feel free to get in touch with one of our experts if you have any questions or if you would like to know more or download our ebook to learn more about mHealth apps.


about the author

Keshav Jeet

Keshav is the most creative and innovative thinker who is never isolated with the bandwidth. He always strives to bring out the potential of technology to deliver a remarkable impact. Started as a programmer he gradually gained expertise in Developing, Designing and Architecting solutions for startups and enterprise. He has varied experience from healthcare, public procurement, ERP and mobility. He helps clients ideate, innovates and uses cutting-edge technologies to solve real-world problems. He brings technological leadership, by evaluating and implementing solutions on next-generation technologies.