The short answer? Yes, it does. HIPAA Compliance is extremely important for telehealth solutions. Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many industries had to pivot in order to adjust to new realities and needs, including the healthcare industry. This crisis caused an increase in demand for hospital beds, overwhelming many healthcare systems, including those of high income countries. So, it became necessary to find new ways to bring healthcare to citizens, even if they couldn’t enter a hospital or clinic.
However, this does not mean that compliance is fully ignored. Despite certain flexibility due to the pandemic, any healthcare system or provider should still be HIPAA compliant at all times.
What is HIPAA Compliance?
HIPAA is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of the United States. This set of regulations help highlight how to lawfully use and disclose PHI, or protected health information.
The simplest way of looking at these rules is that they ensure the safety of patients, as this information helps identify them and could put them at risk if not handled properly. Its four main rules were passed throughout the years since its introduction in 1996, evolving alongside new technologies used within the healthcare industry. These rules can vary in scope, depending on you being a business associate or covered entity.
Evolution of Telehealth Solutions
Now understanding a bit more about HIPAA Compliance, it should be mentioned that the concept of Telehealth Solutions is nothing really new. The earliest form of electronic long distance communication for medical purposes, actually, can be traced back to the Civil War in the USA through telegraphs.
However, Telehealth as we know it today really started kicking off during the 1920s. This is when doctors would use radios in order to diagnose and give medical advice over distance. Soon, terms like telognosis being implemented by the 1940s.
These solutions, however, were being developed during a time where the infrastructure for telecommunications was still very young. This made these solutions extremely expensive to set up and use. This isn’t really an issue nowadays, with the use of the internet and the democratization of information sharing. They do, however, bring about their own set of risks.
Actually, during the 1990s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation considered Health Fraud the main crime of the decade. Although there is no direct link between the crimes and the passing of HIPAA, the timeline of both fits too well to not otherwise make that link.
Telehealth Solutions and Technologies that Follow HIPAA Guidelines
Knowing that fraud was a major crime occuring during the 90s, it paints the perfect picture on just how important protecting patient’s information is, and why these should be considered all throughout your development process. Each and everyone of our clients that have developed a healthcare oriented app have this perfectly in mind in order to ensure that their product follows HIPAA Compliance to the “T”.
One such example of a client that keeps HIPAA Compliance in mind is Focalyx. One of the features we added to make sure that the product follows HIPAA is to make each session last a short amount of time. 10 minutes to be precise. This reduces the window of opportunity for cyber attacks and keeps their client’s data protected when in use.
Things to Consider When Developing a HIPAA Compliant Product
We’re sure that these examples help highlight the importance, beyond the legal obligation, of having these standards in place. That, however, does not mean that telehealth companies can’t have some roadblocks when including these features throughout your development and administrative processes. So from our experience, here are some things to keep in mind when developing your healthcare app.
Do a Risk Assessment
Even the smallest stone can cause an avalanche. That is precisely why you should include policies and features throughout the product development process to ensure HIPAA Compliance at launch. Before you can do that, however, you should always ask the proper questions.
What PHIs will we be using? What does our IT Infrastructure look like? Which policies do we currently have in place or in the pipeline? These gaps in compliance can result in a direct negative impact on your business, so best assess your risks before laying out the framework for this type of project.
Evaluate Your Data Storage Practices
These relate more towards the resources you use to store data and how you go about it. If you’re going to be HIPAA compliant, the best thing you can do is make sure your business associate/service providers are also HIPAA compliant. We have a particular preference for AWS, however Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Services are also perfect for HIPAA compliance.
Also, less is more. Only store the data you’ll actually need and only when you need it, avoiding unnecessary risks and keeping your user’s safeguarded at all times.
Encryption Encryption Encryption
A classic method of providing security to the data you manage. Proper adherence to HIPAA requires all data you collect to be encrypted at-rest and in-transit. Also, proper use of SSL and HTTPS protocols should be put in place.
It’s important to keep back ups for PHIs and any other sort of data that are essential to the business. From having it on a different site, to even having a mirrored cloud Combined with a proper recovery plan. When under attack, you need to have a clear roadmap towards recovering your data to ensure its safety.
Access Controls and Authentication
Any PHI stored and used in your application needs to be under tight lock regarding who has access to them. Having robust access controls can help keep PHIs in authorized hands. Unique user identification and login features and even two-step authentication can make a real difference.
Some even structure their security under a zero trust model that includes multi factor authentication and biometrics. Bottom line, make sure those who have access to the data are just as scarce as the data you use.
Security Policies and Remedy Plans
The human element to security can still open you up to risk. This is why IRL security policies should be in place while developing your app. Teravision Technologies always makes sure that each employee signs a non disclosure agreement, adding a legal bind to this kind of protection.
Do You Have a Telehealth Project?
We at Teravision Technologies are fully capable of creating a high quality application that is fully HIPAA compliant, and ready to be launched. Leave it to us to make your telehealth project a full success.