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Last updated: Dec 10, 2021

What you need to know about HIPAA-compliant app development

Author: Maria Tsarouva
Last updated: Dec 10, 2021
What's inside

Technology has revolutionized the healthcare sector, in terms of both diagnoses and patient care. While many technology solutions are used internally within the medical field, we've also seen a huge rise in consumer healthcare applications, which help people monitor their health conditions from home.

If you're a healthcare app development company, it's essential to understand HIPAA compliance.

In this article, we'll look into what being HIPAA compliant means for healthcare app developers, and most importantly, give you detailed steps to ensure your application passes the requirements.

Let's get started.


What is the HIPAA Act?

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was developed and passed by Congress in 1996 with the focus of helping to ensure that patient data stays safe, while also cutting healthcare costs and other insurance coverage for members who happen to lose or change their jobs.

Healthcare apps that deal with retrieving, sending, or processing private patient data need to be HIPAA compliant.

As a healthcare app developer, in order to be HIPAA compliant, you'll need to first understand the type of data the domain interacts with — PHI and CHI.

What is PHI?

The Privacy Rule of HIPAA protects health information such as the treatment or diagnosis a patient has received. This data refers to "Protected Health Information" (PHI).

The Privacy Rule also applies to additional data about a physician's diagnosis and treatment, and information maintained by a clinic, hospital, care facility, pharmacy, or HMO. This is information such as doctor bills, test results, emails, and MRI scans.

What is CHI?

Consumer Health Information (CHI) is data that devices would gather from a consumer. For example, if you use a fitness app, it might have personal information such as the number of steps you take in a day, your heart rate, or your daily calories burnt.

Why should you be HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA Compliance is important for both patients and health care providers.

For patients specifically, the act was created to protect their private or sensitive medical information. As an app developer, it's essential to follow the guidelines, especially if you’ll be storing or managing patient information.

It's also important for healthcare app developers, especially if you want to maintain the integrity of your business or organization. Compliance will also ensure that the organization's stakeholders are protected from any potential risks that are associated with patient data in a mobile device.

Now that you understand what HIPAA is and why it's so important, you might have one important question — Do all healthcare app developers need to be HIPAA compliant?


Which app developers should comply with HIPAA?

There are currently hundreds of thousands of healthcare applications that are available on the Google Play Store. If you're a healthcare app developer, this is an exciting time for the industry.

While the opportunity to create apps that will be helpful to the healthcare industry is exciting, it can also be overwhelming to understand where to begin, especially with all the HIPAA rules in place.

A question that often comes up is — when should you comply with HIPAA's rules?

Simply put, you'll need to comply with HIPAA if your app:

  • Handles any type of diagnosis
  • Is used by any healthcare provider. For example, physicians, healthcare insurance services, hospitals, etc.
  • Stores any personal information of its users

Since being HIPAA-compliant is essential for healthcare applications, let’s get into more details on what creating a medical app that's HIPAA compliant entails.


3 Steps to HIPAA compliant app development

1) Understand the basics

Healthcare apps that are HIPAA compliant are not like your everyday apps for different industries. If you'll be creating one, your app will need the following basic features:

User identification

For HIPAA compliant apps, user authentication needs to include either a password or a PIN. It can be a Biometric or smart key or card identification.


Encryption is one of the most essential elements of a healthcare app as this helps to ensure that data is safeguarded. If information is to be stored with a SaaS or Cloud service provider, or even at rest (not shared), it needs to be encrypted.

Data Transit Encryption

Services such as Google Cloud or AWS encrypt data while it is in transmission. End-to-end encryption with TLS is also essential for outbound or inbound packets.

Emergency Access

A HIPAA compliant app needs to allow relevant team members the ability to have an emergency contact, so it's important that there is always a way around it during the development process.

2) Evaluate patient data

Every healthcare institution will have private patient data. During the development of the app, it's essential to analyze the data and understand what needs to be under the purview of PHI.

From then on, you'll also need to understand which information you need to store and which data you don't need to store or transfer through the app.

3) Hire a professional in the space

It's challenging to create an HIPAA-compliant app that adheres to all the rules and regulations without getting expert help. The process is complex and can be quite intricate.

Always ensure that you turn to experienced app developers in the healthcare space. They will be able to analyze your application needs and wants, while also ensuring that the app is HIPAA compliant.

Healthcare apps need to understand HIPAA

The process of creating a HIPAA-compliant app can seem like a daunting task. Some may choose to overlook it. However, the penalties for bypassing these regulations are extensive and simply not worth the time, energy, and money.

There are many factors that are involved in making a HIPAA compliant healthcare app. As a vendor or app developer, following these rules and regulations isn't just an option — it's a requirement.

If you're interested in creating a healthcare app, then you can reach out to the Vention team. Our team of experienced engineers and developers has a good track record of creating scalable products for organizations that their clients love.

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