Building HIPAA Compliant Software: A Guide To HIPAA Law

February 25, 2022

When it comes to building HIPAA compliant software for the healthcare industry, there’s more you need to consider than with the average development process. When it comes to healthcare software development, there are more hoops to jump through and regulations to follow than you might think. At a minimum, following the HIPAA act is a requirement for any service, app or healthcare software, allowing for the protection of individuals when it comes to their medical privacy needs.

Read on to find out more about what healthcare mobile app development companies need to do to be HIPAA compliant, as well as a few key considerations to pay attention to if you’re thinking of developing healthcare software for your business.

What is HIPAA Compliant Software?

HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a US federal law that dictates the regulations that must be followed to ensure patient health information is protected. Any software that is HIPAA compliant follows the rules and regulations set out by The US Department of Health and Human Services. It’s vitally important that any healthcare software development company follows HIPAA regulations. The HIPAA violation penalties for not doing so can range from time in prison through to large fines and even the closure of companies in some cases.

To be more easily understood, HIPAA can be broken down into three key components:

The HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule covers the standards that companies must follow to keep the data of patients safe and private. These regulations are designed to ensure no information is freely available, but also that health information can be shared in necessary ways without being improperly protected. For example, two healthcare professionals should be able to share information about a patient with their permission, but a doctor could not share the same information with a marketing company.

The HIPAA Security Rule

The HIPAA Security Rule is specific to all electronic data about an identifiable individual. While the Privacy Rule covers all data, the Security rule is specifically about the electronic data. It includes rules surrounding safeguarding against virtual threats, ensuring confidentiality, and protecting against digital disclosures. For a healthcare software developer, this is the area of HIPAA that must be paid particular attention to.

The HIPAA Enforcement Rule

The HIPAA Enforcement Rule contains all the information about how to comply with the Security and Privacy Rules, as well as penalties, hearings, investigations and more. If the above regulations cover what you need to do to comply with HIPAA, the Enforcement Rule offers information about what happens if you don’t comply, or if you’re suspected of not complying.

Features of HIPAA Compliant Software

So, what makes a HIPAA compliant software meet those above requirements? Here are some of the features you may come across in healthcare mobile apps and software that make that particular development HIPAA compliant:

User authorisation

To meet regulatory requirements, any mobile app or software that uses health data must have full user authorisation to do so before they even begin to access that data. This allows for full compliance by seeking approval from the individual regarding their own health data.

Access control

Controlling who has access to information and data is an integral part of HIPAA compliance. That may include providing unique usernames and passwords, or even additional verifications to ensure any data is being received and sent by the correct individual, and not someone else.

Authorisation monitoring

Actively monitoring healthcare software and mobile apps for who is attempting to access data, as well as other risks, can help to keep all information confidential. As such, this is a vital part of staying HIPAA compliant in the long-term for launched software and apps.

Data backup

The backing up of data is essential for any software or application, but when it comes to healthcare data, certain regulations need to be followed. That means keeping backup data as secure and private as data that is currently live and active, to ensure complete protection for users and their health-related information.

Remediation plan

Remediation plans are essential in the case that a healthcare app doesn’t fully meet compliance regulations. These remediations should be carried out as soon as a gap is noticed, and fully documented, including the date when the issue was resolved.

Automatic log off

While this is a standard of many software and applications, it’s essential for automatic log off functionality to be included within apps and software for the healthcare market. Typically, this is done on a countdown for inactivity – a common time is five minutes – automatically logging users out if they do not do so manually to protect their data and information.

Data encryption and decryption

Appropriate encryption and decryption methods are non-negotiable to be HIPAA compliant. This is especially important for apps that may connect with other healthcare services, where data must be transferred safely and securely between the two.

Things to consider

Building on a ‘secure by default’ foundation

Starting from a secure platform provides HIPAA compliance from day one, which means you won’t be filling in gaps or resolving issues later from an insecure platform. Start safe, and it’s far easier to beef up security than to start from scratch with an inappropriate system.

Utilising the cloud to minimise costs

Using secure, encrypted cloud storage for data can greatly save on the costs of healthcare data management. But using an off-site, privacy-focused method of data management, you can ensure your developed app is HIPAA compliant without the cost of on-site servers and the additional measures required to maintain that security.

Documentation is a vital part of HIPAA compliance

Everything should be written down; from the remedial actions you take to the security updates and enhancements you use. Proving you’re compliant is a large part of compliance, and proper documentation will go a long way towards ensuring HIPAA guidelines are met.

Defining user roles

Defining the roles of each user, also referred to as role-based access control by HIPAA, is a method to meet requirements by ensuring no additional people have access to data when they don’t require it. By defining roles, you can better secure important health information, improving your compliance and separating users who may increase risk.

Secure data storage and transmission

The security of your data is point one on the list of what you should do to comply with HIPAA. Start by ensuring your data is stored and transmitted safely, and you’re in a far better position to meet every other regulatory standard required.

If you’re considering creating a healthcare application or software, working with a team that’s experienced in following HIPAA to the letter is your best bet. With so many factors to consider, an expert hand can ensure you reach your goal while meeting every point of compliance along the way. Interested in what we do? Get in touch with our professional team at Compoze Labs today to find out how we could help you.