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By Marisa Spanial • December 19, 2016

How to Build a HIPAA-compliant mHealth App

While there are about 259,000 mHealth apps currently available in the market on major app stores, a significant majority of these apps do not properly support the needs of patients.

According to a study conducted by Health Affairs, most apps are far below the required standard for enabling high-need, high-cost patient populations to manage their health. There is also a clear lack of strategy on how providers should assess and endorse mHealth apps to patients.

In an environment that is filled with such uncertainty and lack of clarity,  healthcare enterprises need to work strategically toward eliminating the barriers to increased adoption of mHealth apps.


Why HIPAA Compliance?

Healthcare enterprises should ensure that mHealth apps launched in the market are compliant, protect patient privacy, ensure data security, easily integrate with third-party platforms, and enable better delivery of care.

Having HIPAA-compliant applications ensures that your systems handle electronic protected health information (ePHI) in a secure and protected environment. It helps avoid any data breaches by keeping systems up-to-date with latest safety features. Here is what you can do to build HIPAA-compliant mHealth apps:


1. Choose the right development environment

When choosing third-party development platforms for building mHealth apps, ensure they comply with HIPAA and other related regulations — HITECH and HITRUST — that govern the just use of electronic protected health information (ePHI). HIPAA-compliant apps will help not only to secure the storage and transmission of health information between parties but also build more confidence among users and drive them to adopt mHealth apps.


2. Select a robust backend infrastructure 

 Mobile application development requires a robust backend infrastructure. Make certain this infrastructure is HIPAA-compliant in terms of physical, administrative, and technical safeguards. The infrastructure should also have the ability to integrate with any and all disparate enterprise systems, taking into consideration the latest IoT movement. Also, plan for an audit process.

Secure Mobile Development Whitepaper

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3. Ensure interoperability 

 Interoperability between electronic health record (EHRs) systems is a challenge, which is further increased due to the emergence of IoT devices. However, for any mobile application to be successful, it should be able to pull in data from multiple sources, including the EHRs. These integration capabilities while not available otherwise, are readily available in mobile application development backend infrastructure such as Cloudmine. One must examine the extent of pre-built integration capabilities available before deciding on a backend infrastructure solution. 


4. Partner with the right platform provider 

 Partner with a mobile applications platform provider that has pre-built HIPAA-compliant development environments, out-of-the-box integrations with EHR systems, and cloud-based data storage and management capabilities. This will help accelerate innovation without escalating cost or requiring investment to build infrastructure in-house.


To know more about important considerations for proceeding with a build option for developing and deploying mHealth applications, read our white paper Digital Health and Mobile Application Development in a HIPAA-Ready Environment.