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Do you know that healthcare technology trends have surged reasonably high due to the COVID19 pandemic? According to a research report by McKinsey, 250 billion USD investments in healthcare are shifting to virtual care models. The reason is simple – healthcare organizations want to minimize physical interaction with patients. These are the estimations from the US alone. A similar trend is being followed all around the world. Healthcare software development is high in demand.
Software companies are bound to ensure the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance in healthcare applications. This blog post will guide you in HIPAA compliant healthcare software development. You will learn what is HIPAA, why HIPAA compliance is important, and how to ensure it in healthcare IT solutions.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a security and privacy regulation made for protection of patient’s digital rights. There have been numerous changes in the clauses of HIPAA along with the evolving technology and threat landscape during these 24 years. This regulation contains a series of standards outlining the privacy and security of patient’s Protected Health Information (PHI). Let’s have a look:
Protected Health Information (PHI)
It is essential to identify and understand the PHI of patients in healthcare software development. Confidential and personal information defined in HIPAA include:
- Name: First name, middle initial, last name.
- Address: Subdivisions including house number, street address, city, county, or zip code.
- Dates: Directly related to an individual, such as birthday, date of admission, or discharge.
- Telephone number: Any personal, official, or mobile number.
- Fax number
- Email Address: Any personal or official address.
- Social Security Number
- Medical Record Number
- Health Plan Beneficiary Number
- Account Number
- Certificate/License Number
- Vehicle identifiers: Serial numbers, License plate numbers, etc.
- Device identifiers
- Web URLs
- IP address
- Biometric identifiers: Such as fingerprints, voiceprints, facial identification.
- Full-face photos
- Any unique identifying numbers: Characteristics, or codes.
HIPAA has a set of rules that focus on the privacy and security of protected health information of patients. It is imperative to understand these rules for healthcare application development. Here are the three foremost HIPAA rules.
HIPAA Privacy Rule
The HIPAA privacy rule demands to provide healthcare app users and stakeholders control and rights over their private and personal information. This information is explained in detail above as PHI.
HIPAA Security Rule
The security rule was added quite late to the HIPAA regulations (in 2005). This rule embodies all standards and requirements that help in securing PHI from cyber threats. It is important to incorporate the HIPAA security rules in healthcare app development.
HIPAA Omnibus Rule
In the year 2013, the omnibus rule was further added to the list. This rule was added to incorporate important stakeholders such as third-party services and business associates, making them bound to ensure HIPAA privacy and security compliance.
Why is HIPAA Compliance Important in Healthcare Software Development?
You might be wondering why HIPAA compliance matters in healthcare and medical app development? These applications are bound to ensure the digital safety and privacy of PHI under the HIPAA regulation. Moreover, in the case of a violation of HIPAA rules, healthcare application development companies may face heavy fines and reputation loss. In fact, HIPAA violations have caused millions of dollars in fines.
How to ensure HIPAA Compliance in Software Development?
To ensure HIPAA compliance, a healthcare software developer must follow this checklist:
HIPAA Compliance Checklist
The purpose of this checklist is to assist in a successful HIPAA compliant healthcare software development. This list includes access control, data protection methodologies, protected data communication, secure authentication, session time handling, and data backups. Let’s explore each of these individually:
Access control management controls the authorization and usage of data. There are various access control models available. For example, Roles-based Access Control (RBAC) is one of the most famous access control models. In this model, the developer can define different roles and provide authorization and access to the data according to those roles.
Data Protection and Encryption
There are various ways to follow HIPAA’s data security rule. One of them is data encryption. Through data encryption, software developers can ensure that the PHI is not readable by anyone. This can add an extra layer of security to your application. Other data protection methodologies include hashing and tokenization.
Protected Data Communication
If an application involves data communication, developers must ensure that it is encrypted from end-to-end.
You can strengthen authentication using various methods such as multi-factor authentication, the requirement of strong passwords, etc. Furthermore, healthcare software development teams must make sure that these features are part of their application.
Session Time Handling
There are various ways to handle the session time. For example, developers can limit the timing of every session, and finish a session automatically in case the application is not in use.
HIPAA compliance requires regular data backups to reduce the impact of data loss or damage. Furthermore, the healthcare software developer should choose a reliable third-party data storage facility.
With the rising need for healthcare applications in the COVID19 era, it is imperative to understand HIPAA compliance. If you have an idea for a healthcare app, make sure that you contact a software development company that ensures HIPAA compliance.