Why HIPAA Compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps

health data from the hospitals is safe, secure and private. These apps minimize the risk of threats from data breaching, hacking attacks, etc. HIPAA compliance is mandatory for heath apps for ensuring the integrity & confidentiality of PHI.

The healthcare sector has progressed enormously in this era of digitalization. Global spending on healthcare services is on the rise and this industry has a bright future for sure. Healthcare providers are investing in advanced technologies to ensure high-quality services to their patients. Users of mobile app are able to actively keep track of basic health stats such as consulting a physician over the app,Guest Posting measuring their heart rate, checking their glucose level, BMI level, booking appointments, Accessibility of Electronic Health Records both to patients and Physicians, etc.

But what comes in the picture here is the security of data. It is one of the biggest concerns of the healthcare industry. Data breaches, cyber-attacks, hacking, etc. are common today. They can put the sensitive health data of patients at risk, causing massive losses to healthcare organizations. This data can be at high risk especially while using a healthcare mobile app. So, healthcare organizations need to be more vigilant of their IT and cyber-security practices. In order to avoid theft, fraud, Misuse, identity of the patient data, all healthcare apps in US have to be HIPAA compliant and strictly abide by the HIPAA rules and regulations.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The Act includes a set of minimum security and privacy standards for protection, confidentiality and availability of sensitive patient information and their medical records. It is issued by the federal regulators. Initially, the purpose of enacting this act was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. healthcare organizations. Over time, many rules were added to the Act and the purpose was to protect the individually identifiable health information i.e. Protected Health Information (PHI). These rules influence the working and security of healthcare mobile apps.

The entities covered under HIPAA are healthcare clearinghouses, health plans, and healthcare providers that make use of electronic media for transmitting data like health claims, referral authorizations, coordination of benefits, etc. These entities may comprise of individual practitioners, small or large organizations, institutions, research centres and government agencies as well.

Why HIPAA Compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps?

It is federally mandated for the healthcare organizations and other healthcare IT service providers (like healthcare mobile app development services, web portal development services, etc.), to adhere to HIPAA for data privacy. So let us understand how HIPAA compliance plays a major role in protecting data privacy in Healthcare Apps:

Data Privacy

The importance of data capturing has increased over the years for improving the overall healthcare operations, with the use of advanced technologies like the Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, etc. Personal information of hundreds of patients, their contact details and their medical reports are recorded and saved digitally by many hospital bodies. So, data privacy is important to ensure that only relevant information is shared with the right people and at the right time. This also helps to build trust among the patients.

HIPAA compliant apps abide by strict rules to ensure data privacy. They have to display a link in the privacy policy of the mobile app, while the app is downloaded by the users. The apps take consent from the patients or users before using their information. Also, the users are informed about how their data will be used. These apps are hosted on HIPAA compliant servers for ensuring that all the HIPAA standards are met correctly.

Security of the medical data

Data breaches can be devastating for patients, hospitals and similar healthcare systems. There could be insurance frauds, extortion or identity thefts and once this data is hacked or lost, it can be disastrous for both patient and Healthcare providers. Hence it is of utmost importance to secure the data of patients, hospital staff or other back-office data.

A HIPAA compliant mobile app ensures that healthcare data remains safe and secure. The users of these apps can access the data only through a secure login and 2 factor authentications are applied as well for more security. All the data presented in the app can be only accessed using a secure PHI key. Also, in case the mobile device is stolen or lost, the personal user information cannot be accessed easily due to the advanced security and encryption. Data being stored on database servers are also encrypted so that the medical data cannot be easily accessible.

Secure data transmission

In many large Healthcare Facilities having multiple branches, the medical data needs to be shared with many Physicians or concerned authorities. If such a hospital uses a mobile app for data transmission, it must be in accordance with HIPAA rules and regulations. To ensure that the user data in the app isn’t accessed inappropriately or modified abruptly, the data should be audited from time to time. In case the patients are monitored remotely through wearable technology, IoT or AI, only the necessary data will be transferred to ensure the security of data. There are integrity control mechanisms in place in the communication networks of the apps.

A HIPAA compliant mobile app ensures that the amount of sensitive data that is stored on them has access limitations when the device is carried outside the premises of the hospital. Also, when these apps are deleted by the users, any related health data is deleted completely from the device. It is noteworthy that HIPAA laws apply only to the apps using PHI i.e. protected health information. So, the data transferred from an app that does not deal with personally identifiable information, is not needed to be protected under HIPAA.

Notification of medical records breaches

There is a possibility of sensitive Healthcare data getting fraudulently accessed by hackers. If the Healthcare Mobile app is HIPAA compliant, then it needs to notify affected individuals about the breach of data without unreasonable delay and should not be sent later than 60 days. So it is mandatory for an app that adheres to HIPAA to abide by data breach notification laws. Under these laws, the eligible data breaches are obliged to alert the users or relevant parties.

Some of the data breaches may not cause serious harm to hospitals or medical organizations. In case any disclosure of information, unauthorized access to it or loss of personal information is bound to cause serious damage, such breaches are called eligible data breaches. They can result in financial harm or even harm the reputation of the healthcare organizations. So, the mobile app they use should be HIPAA compliant and send timely notifications to users.

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How IoT has ushered in a wave of success in Healthcare Services?

IoT in Healthcare has redefined healthcare services altogether by opening up a wide range of convenient options for patients, practitioners, and healthcare service providers.

IoT (Internet of Things) is one of those technological marvels of the modern era that has digitally transformed the Healthcare sector and has helped it to overcome the existent roadblocks and limitations in its functioning. IoT Healthcare Solutions has empowered the practitioners,Guest Posting patients, and service providers to unfold new horizons; resulting in simplified access to medical facilities through remote communication and reduced mortality rate on account of avant-garde treatment methodologies. Needless to say, the rate of adoption of IoT App Solutions has sky-rocketed and an upward demand curve has been observed.

As per Statistica, the Market size of IoT in Healthcare, which was 24 billion US$ in 2016, is predicted to rise to 135.87 billion US$ by 2025.

Fortune Business Insights predicts that the IoT in Healthcare market size will soar up to USD 176.82 Billion by the end of 2026.

In this blog, I have penned down how IoT in Healthcare has revolutionized the fundamental tenets of this domain and its immense benefits reaped by the patients, doctors, and service providers unanimously.

IoT in a nutshell

Internet of Things comprises of a network of devices and software applications, interconnected via computer networks and wireless communication channels. This ingenious eco-system is meant for collecting and sharing real-time data. Data is stored in cloud platforms and can be remotely accessed by authorized users from any part of the globe. IoT in Healthcare enables remote patient monitoring and works wonders in domains like telehealth, mHealth, telemedicine, etc. Let’s dive into some of the use cases in the healthcare domain.

Popular Use cases of IoT in Healthcare

Remote patient Diagnoses and Observation

IoT empowered solutions record the necessary health parameters to facilitate remote patient diagnoses and monitoring. This is one of the commonest applications of IoT in telemedicine apps.

Doctor-patient consultations take place through live audio and video call, and other advanced communication channels, without the need for patients to pay a visit to the hospital. IoT powered external devices such as digital stethoscopes, oximeters, etc are being used by patients during digital telemedicine consultations.

IoT activity monitors such as heart rate monitoring cuffs, glucometers, pulse meters, used by the patients enable the doctors to remotely observe the health of elderly patients and those with chronic conditions. The data obtained from these devices aid the physicians to identify the correct course of treatment for patients.

Mobile Healthand Wellness

Wearables like Apple watches, Fitbits, etc transmit patient’s vital health parameters through Bluetooth and display the results in the smartphones. This proves immensely beneficial in keeping a track of the body vitals and other wellness parameters such as sleep patterns, body temperature, heart rate, blood sugar level, activity tracking, etc. and providing real-time data to the patient, their doctors, and caregivers. For example, a Holter monitor device is a wearable that tracks abnormalities in a patient’s heartbeat. This helps in timely preventive care.

IoT powered ingestible devices

These ingenious ingestible sensors available in the form of pills can be swallowed and it remains inside the human body and stay at a particular spot and sends data to mobile applications. The sensors embedded inside these pills detect drug doses taken and missed by the patient. Some of these pills have an in-built camera that provides visibility of the internal organs. Thus, Ingestible devices prevent life-threatening conditions.

Emergency handling

IoT facilitates the accurate collection of patient data in case of medical emergencies and transmission of this data in real-time to the Emergency Response medical staff. This allows the ER staff to stay prepared while the patient is being brought to the hospital and no time is wasted after the patient’s arrival.

Aiding surgeries

IoT powered tools and applications provide handy assistance during surgeries and in handling post-surgery care. The IoT sensors accumulate data, transmit it, and analyze the same, resulting in finding out even the tiniest complication, and thereby preventing surgical complications.

Efficient Tracking of Patients, Staff, and Inventory

Smart IoT healthcare solutions contribute in the following ways:

Wireless ID cards for staff and patients enhance security, effectively manage admissions, and simplify staff management.
RFID tags are used to track patients such as babies and elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease and even staff members in case of urgency.
IoT integrates with Real-time location systems (RTLS) to manage the assets of healthcare enterprises. It employs BLE(Bluetooth Low Energy) and iBeacon to track supplies in the operating rooms and inventory.
Virtual Monitoring of medical equipment

The contemporary healthcare services require avant-garde software and hardware equipment and their continuous monitoring, to prevent them from system failures and cyber-attacks. IoT powered solutions virtually monitor them and provide alerts to the medical staff if some anomaly is detected.

Managing Pharmacy

Managing the drugs in a hospital and transferring the same safely to storage facilities is a Herculean task with chances of errors. Pharmacies managed by IoT application enable faster delivery of medicines and takes care of drug-preservation issues while transfer.

Handling insurance procedures

Insurance companies leverage IoT devices to validate claims and detect fraudulent practices with the help of the data captured by these devices. Such devices also enhance the transparency between insurance providers and customers regarding processes like pricing, underwriting, handling claims, and assessing risks.

Architecting an IoT Environment in healthcare

Steps to be followed by Digital healthcare service providers for the implementation of IoT are as follows:

Deploying devices possessing sensors, monitors, actuators, camera systems, actuators, and detectors to accumulate data.
Conversion of received data to the digital format and store the same in a data center.
Managing and analyzing the medical data with the help of data analytics based on which the correct course of action is decided.
Key Advantages of IoT powered Healthcare IT services

Easy access to healthcare facilities

Remote doctor monitoring and consultation facilities make healthcare and wellness easily accessible to patients with less mobility, the ones residing in remote areas with no hospitals nearby, and the super-busy professionals who hardly find time to visit the clinic. Moreover, the patients have a plethora of options at their disposal while choosing doctors.

Misdiagnosis of diseases

IoT system with the help of computer vision, sensors can collect data from several IoT devices and leverages advanced analytics enabling providers to know the course of the disease and thus avoid the wrong diagnosis of diseases. Faster and error-free diagnoses of diseases, continuous patient monitoring, and proactive treatment methodologies are some of the major gains for patients opting for digital healthcare services.

Lesser negligence and better adherence to treatment plans

Thanks to the IoT healthcare monitoring solutions encourage patients to stick to their treatment procedures and help the doctors to stay informed about the patient’s condition without much ado.

Operational Flexibility

Online diagnoses allows doctors to enjoy flexible schedules without having to visit the clinic in case of non-emergencies.

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