It’s easy to start using a mobile app that has all the features you need, but when your business operations are bound by strict data privacy regulations, an unsecured mobile app could be your downfall. According to hipaajournal.com, when an organization violates HIPAA, fines of up to $1.5 million can be issued, and those fines get multiplied by the number of years a violation has been unresolved.
HIPAA is a data privacy regulation your organization can’t afford to ignore. You don’t have to work directly in healthcare to be bound by these regulations. If your organization handles, stores, or processes electronic health information, even without your knowledge, you’re subject to HIPAA. For example, if you run a web hosting company that stores data for healthcare organizations, you can be held responsible if that data is accessed by an unauthorized party.
HIPAA data privacy regulations apply to data that passes through all platforms including mobile apps. While mobile technology is constantly evolving, it’s up to you to make sure all apps used are compliant. If you’re the app’s developer, this means intentionally fortifying that app’s security to prevent unauthorized access. At the very least, all data should be encrypted end-to-end so that even stolen data can’t be read.
Even if you’re not the app developer and your organization handles health data, any mobile apps that handle that data must comply with HIPAA.
A refresher on HIPAA basics
HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – a law enacted in 1996 primarily to help people maintain health insurance coverage between jobs. HIPAA was also designed to protect patient information by restricting access to certain authorized parties. This extra protection was needed at the time because health records were just being switched from paper to electronic storage.
Electronic storage of health records was risky back then, and organizations needed a legal reason to protect patient data. Cyber attacks have always been a threat, and when HIPAA was first introduced, the internet was fairly new, and many organizations weren’t protecting their data.
Consequences for violations
There are serious consequences, including hefty fines, for violating HIPAA regulations, even if the violation is unintentional. With that said, if you are the creator of, or use any mobile apps and you don’t know if those apps are HIPAA compliant, you need to verify compliance as soon as possible.
Are your service providers HIPAA compliant?
If your organization handles patient medical data, every single IT service provider you do business with online needs to be HIPAA compliant. For example, if patients visit your website to access their health records, schedule appointments, or communicate with a health professional, your web hosting company needs to be HIPAA compliant, as well as the software you run on your website and all mobile apps.
You may have had trouble finding compliant software in the past, but today, more providers are ensuring compliance – even if they don’t have many healthcare clients. For instance, video conferencing platform Zoom and managed service provider Syncro are now proudly HIPAA compliant.
Encourage software providers to get compliant
If you use a mobile application in your business and that application isn’t HIPAA compliant, don’t be afraid to suggest that the company make their platform compliant. Making those requests is the only way they’ll know about the need. When there’s enough demand, they’ll start developing a compliant version of their app.
Software developers will need time to upgrade their platforms to become compliant, but in today’s world, it’s unlikely that a company will reject the idea with enough demand.
For example, it’s no accident that Zoom decided to launch a special HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform for healthcare companies. If there wasn’t any demand for an extra-secure platform, the company would have continued with their regular platform. It was by customer demand that Zoom decided to create a HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform for patients to connect with their healthcare providers through virtual visits.
Zoom’s new platform couldn’t have come at a better time. By the time the coronavirus pandemic hit, the platform was already there to handle the unexpected need for virtual visits. Healthcare providers without their own proprietary communication software were able to sign up with Zoom and see patients from a safe distance.
Can’t get a secure version of your favorite app? Switch companies
Since HIPAA violations come with hefty fines, it’s better to switch to a mobile app that is compliant rather than wait for your favorite apps to make the switch. Protect yourself and your customers’ health data by moving to a compliant platform. You can always switch back later.