HIPAA Compliance and Health Care Applications

Recent, tremendous development of e-health and m-health applications that use, transmit or store personal health information of their users lead the application developers to pose questions on HIPAA compliance and the need to abide by, as government has set security standards or general requirements for electronic protected health information (e-PHI). Today, health care industry is getting rid of paper processes to rely more heavily on the use of electronic information systems that answer eligibility questions, pay claims, provide health information and conduct a host of other administrative and clinically based functions.

e-health or clinical applications such as computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems, electronic health records (EHR), pharmacy, radiology, laboratory systems and health plans are providing access to claims and care management, as well as member self-service applications. It all means that the medical staff can be more mobile and much efficient (i.e., physicians can check patient records and test results from any remote area), the phenomenal rise in the adoption rate of these technologies increases the security risks to the data stored in the database backing up these applications making HIPAA strict rules come into picture. 

Enthusiastic app developers are now investing more on the global medical app market resulting in rapid growth towards futuristic approach between the patients and the health care industry. Pharma companies are nowhere falling short to empower their turnover revenue into handy medical app. In near future, by 2025, this market is assumed to generate over a USD 111.1 billions. Users are also much aware on this topic, compared to decade ago before introduction to phone which could be carried along. 

To be precise, top 10 healthcare apps among hospitals and health system are ruling the market already. AirStrip, Aetna ITriage, Cerner CareAware Connect, DSS Inc., Epic Systems, MyChart Mobile, GetWellNetwork, Marbella, MEDITECH, Ambulatory EHR and Spok Mobile are few of them to be named. Most of which, patients can download these apps either the App Store or Google Play to access health data from previous in-office visits to providers. Every app is fitted with virtual care to ease the patients against running from hospital to hospital, or managing emergency conditions, or knowing their health status, or have access to directly message their providers and confirm/schedule appointments. 

ITriage gives patient directions on whether their conditions require a visit to the emergency room, turn-by-turn navigation to the appropriate provider, and a map of facilities in their Innovation Health insurance network. DSS Inc. gives providers a suite of EHR-based mobile features that enhance care coordination, patient care and safety, and provides interoperable workflows aimed at reducing administrative costs. DSS provides both clinical and administrative tools that range from emergency room and home health mobile care management to automatic billing systems and scheduling tools.

With increasing demand for apps and health care delivery systems taking on pressure to improve performance: that is, to control health care costs while guaranteeing high quality services and better access to care. Besides which, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed regulations protecting the privacy and security of certain health information established under The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). To fulfill this requirement, HHS published what is known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. However, these rules cannot be thought to provide complete or comprehensive guide to compliance, yet it does summarise the key element of the Security Rule. On the other hand, Privacy Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also paves a way for patient’s rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain health records copies, and to request corrections.

 In addition to the Rules set forth, developers are also required to focus on CCPA or the California Consumer Privacy Act and GDPR or the General Data Protection Regulation, especially in the early stages of development. Mobile medical applications have to follow the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) guidelines that define standards to protect user data.

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