With the growing popularity of mobile devices in recent years, it’s no wonder that technology has filled in the gaps in all aspects of our lives. One area that relies heavily on electronic data transfer and storage is the healthcare industry. In order to get the treatments that we need, our doctors and other healthcare providers need to have our information, such as medical records, available as quickly and easily as possible–meaning that waiting for records to be mailed or faxed is too slow and could cost patients a timely treatment. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (also known as HIPAA), there are restrictions on how our information is sent and accessed electronically in order to protect our privacy.
When HIPAA was initially conceived, the goal of the act was to make our healthcare and medical information available to all of our healthcare providers and standardized across a variety of platforms. Although HIPAA controls who can see and access our healthcare records, many companies in the Health 2.0 industry are now developing applications that allow for HIPAA compliant text messaging, email, and other methods of transferring confidential documents and records. The Health 2.0 industry includes use of such innovations as telemedicine, electronic medical records, mobile healthcare apps, and other uses of technology for record keeping in doctors offices, hospitals, and other medical practices.
Unfortunately, as these mobile healthcare applications undergo development, there are risks to the current BYOD/BYOT (or “bring your own device”/”bring your own technology”) model of using mobile medical apps. Some of these threats to electronic protected health information (sometimes called “ePHI”) include:
– The loss or theft of the mobile device
– Improper disposal of the device, especially if information can still be accessed on a “wiped” harddrive
– Interception of ePHI transmissions by an unauthorized individual (i.e. access to information by computer hackers or others who do not have permission to access these files)
– No availability of ePHI to persons other than the user of that mobile device (i.e. lack of compatibility across platforms)
These issues and more are the current struggles in the healthcare app industry. However, as our technology advances, more mobile health app developers are finding ways to use HIPAA compliant text messaging and email. This way your healthcare provider has access to your medical records as easily as possible.
Currently in the United States, only 46% of medical practices use electronic record keeping software and applications for their patients’ records. (To compare, the Netherlands leads the world with 99% participation in electronic medical record keeping.) As our country becomes more and more advanced with mobile technology and PCs, however, the closer we are to having fully HIPAA compliant text messaging, email, and data storage and communication across all platforms. Our privacy is important, and developers keep this in mind when finalizing secure messaging services for healthcare providers that will comply with HIPAA. Research more here.