The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires the proper handling of electronic personal health information (ePHI) by healthcare institutions through their healthcare providers and the applications they use. Noncompliance with HIPAA regulations, either due to negligence or intentional data breach, can lead to litigation and penalties.
With patient information security and HIPAA compliance in mind, here are six of the myths and realities of building HIPAA-compliant apps for healthcare.
Myth 1: Anyone can make a HIPAA-compliant app
Reality: It can be easy to make an app or software that is accessible on different devices and operating systems but it is not as easy to make it HIPAA-complaint. The healthcare industry is duty-bound to comply with HIPAA's requirements and developers need to consider if the app will be compliant as well.
Myth 2: HIPAA-compliant apps are not easily accessible
Reality: While it is true that apps have been made to be accessible via desktops or mobile devices, developers have made it so that only authorized users can have authorized access to the information available through these apps. Anyone can download, install, and use a HIPAA-compliant app but only authorized persons can open ePHI and other proprietary information made available only to them by their administrators and institutional affiliations.
Myth 3: HIPAA-compliant apps require tons of passwords to open
Reality: Although HIPAA-compliant apps, just like other secure apps, require a password with a minimum number of characters and in certain combinations, it doesn't mean that users need to remember their passwords all the time. Some apps allow devices to remember user passwords, although this may not be the most secure option. Some users have single sign-on (SSO) activated for them by their organization. There are also paid apps available that can help you store your passwords and log-in details securely so all you have to remember is one password.
Myth 4: Apps used in healthcare have made patient information redundant and unorganized
Reality: There are complaints that software and apps used by health practitioners provide redundant and unorganized patient information. While in some cases this is true, software and apps are constantly being developed to help improve user experience and avoid superfluous information that only bog down practitioners and prevent them from doing their jobs efficiently.
Myth 5: Healthcare software and apps have negatively impacted healthcare practitioners' interaction with patients
Reality: Technology has made it easier for health practitioners to enter and access ePHI and use it to treat patients. Apps have allowed information to be easily accessible and always within the users' reach, and it is up to healthcare providers to use this opportunity to make patient consultations inclusive and be more empathetic when discussing patient information using their convenient HIPAA-compliant apps.
Related read: Digital Healthcare: A New Approach to Care Coordination
Myth 6: ePHI is easy to breach with apps
Reality: HIPAA-compliant apps have layers of security to help ensure the privacy and mitigate breaches of ePHI, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the authorized user (and administrators who give and revoke access) to monitor how they use the ePHI they are entrusted with. The app may have the strongest password and the most secure data storage, but it only takes one negligent or malicious act to breach the security of ePHI.
With much consideration to be given on building HIPAA-compliant apps and on how users may use them, there are existing applications and tools that can help ensure that healthcare providers and institutions stay HIPAA-compliant and help patients feel at ease, assured with the fact that their ePHI is secure.
This is a guest post by Erick Francisco. Erick is a content writer for SafetyCulture, a software company that enables businesses to perform inspections using digital checklists.