Editor’s note: Are you planning to develop a HIPAA-compliant telemedicine application or are you unsure whether your existing telehealth application complies with HIPAA regulations? Alena will share ScienceSoft’s experience in creating HIPAA-compliant telemedicine applications. If you need practical help to make your application compatible, you can explore ScienceSoft’s telemedicine application development offering.
You can’t overestimate the importance of HIPAA compliance in telemedicine applications, as leaking PHI (protected health information) can lead to severe fines and reputational losses for caregivers. However, HIPAA guidelines may not always be up to date with rapid changes telehealth technology, so the PHI technical guarantees they promote can sometimes seem vague or confusing. Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to understand what you need to do to make your telemedicine application HIPAA compliant.
Based on ScienceSoft’s experience in developing and implementing HIPAA-compliant telemedicine solutions, I would like to share some proven measures to make a telehealth application compliant with HIPAA.
Data encryption (in transit and at rest)
Currently, data encryption is one of the most effective measures to ensure HIPAA compliance of a telemedicine application or any other healthcare software. It ensures that even if a data leak occurs, its use by third parties is unlikely. Data encryption helps protect patient information when stored in the cloud or on-premises (at rest) and transmitted across the network (in transit) using strong in-encryption standards (e.g., SSL certificates). / TLS). ScienceSoft, for example, has developed a HIPAA-compatible telehealth Android application of the Chiron Health platform using peer-to-peer video connection encryption to ensure the security of video queries.
As my practice shows, some healthcare organizations are concerned that data encryption may substantially slow down the work of their telemedicine application. Speaking of in-traffic encryption, the transmission of encrypted data does not affect the performance of the application so that users notice it. As for standby encryption, when done at the application level, it can negatively affect application performance, which is why at ScienceSoft we use file-level or block-level encryption when we develop telehealth applications for our clients.
Data access control measures
To provide video conferencing, text messaging, and other useful features of HIPAA-compliant telehealth applications, at ScienceSoft we use data access control measures, as, for example, in our project on developing a mobile remote care solution for a large healthcare system. There, we configure user roles, user authentication, access rights, action permissions, automatic logout, etc., so that medical staff and patients are assigned different ‘roles’ with permissions. individuals to perform certain actions. By restricting access to the system according to user roles, you can ensure patient / doctor privacy and eliminate the possibility of PHI leakage.
Security audit procedures
Providing HIPAA security for a telemedicine application is not a unique procedure. Only continuous action can ensure the HIPAA security of a telehealth application and all transmitted and stored data. For example, at ScienceSoft, we typically offer our clients a vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, and ongoing monitoring of the telemedicine system, as these measures help maintain a high level of application security.
You must sign a Trade Partnership Agreement (BAA) with your provider before proceeding with any technical measures to ensure HIPAA compliance of your telemedicine application, as vendors often require access to PHI (e.g. , if you provide application support services). With BAA, the seller is responsible for any breach of patient privacy and disclosure of the PHI to which he or she has access.
However, there is no document to guarantee that your provider will design and deliver a HIPAA claim telemedicine application. That is why I recommend resorting to third parties HIPAA compliance tests after the development of telemedicine applications and deployment has been completed or used Eina SRA (Security risk assessment tool).
Although the The HHS Office of Civil Rights has been announced that sanctions for non-compliance would not be applied in cases of “good faith use” of telehealth during the COVID-19 situation, this does not mean that HIPAA compliance in telemedicine loses its relevance and importance. At all times, providing security to patient data is the duty of a telehealth provider. But this duty does not have to be something that your organization carries out on its own. If you need a competent provider specializing in the development of HIPAA-compliant telemedicine applications, please do not hesitate to contact ScienceSoft healthcare IT team.
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