If you are a mobile application developer or create software or other technologies that are related to the healthcare industry or provide healthcare information, then you probably are wondering about the whole HIPAA compliance issue, do the laws apply to you or the app
you build, and whether you need to get certified as a HIPAA app developer.
Well, it’s a reasonable doubt given that you are an app developer who uses confidential information such as payment-related information, you are used to the whole concept of certifications. For instance, online payment solutions are needed to be PCI compliant. You probably might be thinking healthcare applications need similar data protections and certifications as well, right?
The problem is, often the answer to your question is not straightforward.
What is HIPAA certification, anyway?
When one has a HIPAA certification, it means that they are getting certified via a third-party organization, which is impartial and credible, to meet specific standards in protecting the health information that has been processed by the company or the person.
Who has the authority to give HIPAA certification or compliance to app developers? Honestly, no one. The Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA) doesn’t need you or your organization to get a 3rd-party certification by law. Another thing with HIPAA certification is that there is no governing body or the ultimate authority who can officially give you certification or certify you as HIPAA compliant.
Does that mean you can’t get HIPAA certification or don’t need to be HIPAA compliant? Not exactly. Any certification you obtain is optional and gives no warranty or guarantee that you or your company is HIPAA compliant in the eye of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the governing entity which administers HIPAA compliance.
The law needs only one thing which is that you are HIPAA compliant. It doesn’t approve of any 3rd-party certifications, including self-assessment that believes you or your organization is HIPAA compliant. Enterprises should make sure that they are HIPAA compliant. Having said that, they can perform the audits and other assessments on their own without getting outside parties involved.
Also, even with a third-party HIPAA certification, both you and your organization will still be held accountable for ensuring compliance. No amount of third-party compliance certification will be able to save you if you violated compliance laws. Even though there isn’t any written law for compliance, it is still better to consider becoming HIPAA certified and compliant. The governing law states that HIPAA compliance is needed why any personally identifiable medical data about patients is managed by your mobile application and is shared with a covered entity such as a hospital or insurance company. This kind of information is referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI).
Healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, and other staff members in the healthcare industry have to be HIPAA certified. In addition, all organizations that work with covered entities, known as Business Associates, have to be HIPAA certified. In case you are developing a mobile application that saves and shares Protected Health Information with covered entities then you may fall under HIPAA regulations.
Why is HIPAA Certification needed?
HIPAA has first introduced almost twenty years ago. It can be pretty complicated to navigate since it’s too old, repeated updates, and has no specific governing body. So figuring everything out yourself could be no less than a nightmare. However, getting a certification as a HIPAA app developer will be of great help to make sure you have the systems and processes ready to protect the patients’ health information and meet compliance rules and regulations that are outlined by the law. So try to work with an expert who understands compliance so that you will know how the compliance law is applied to your application.
To make sure that any application or software that you build is HIPAA compliant, you need to complete the certification process which will help you achieve three things.
- You will understand the compliance laws and rules and regulations that are involved with HIPAA and how to handle the PHI stored by your app.
- You will have a competent entity or person who will ask you the right questions or violations that you might be unaware of otherwise.
- Your HIPAA certification may help you get new partnerships with entities that will require to make sure your compliance before they take data from your app or software.
How to get HIPAA Certified?
You can get HIPAA certification through any credible, legitimate, and independent third party. Or you could also choose to get healthcare auditing. If you are an app developer and want to get HIPAA certified, then you can go ahead. But remember, having a certification doesn’t mean you have to handle the app’s infrastructure yourself. You can et HIPAA certified if that is all you want but understand that certification isn’t compliance. It is recommended to work with a HIPAA hosting provider that offers HIPAA-certified infrastructure with an SSAE-16 audited certification.