HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In 1996, Congress enacted a law to protect and keep private medical records and personal health information of individuals. The law protects all “individually identifiable health information” or PHI (protected health information). This law ultimately affects the way information is stored and shared over technology, including mobile apps. Therefore, before embarking on a mobile app project that involves storing or sharing health information, you should conduct some research on whether or not your mobile app should be HIPAA compliant.
When it comes to understanding HIPAA compliance and your mobile app, there are a lot of complexities, mostly due to the ambiguity around what exactly is considered PHI (protected health information). It’s also not so cut and dry in terms of what apps need to be compliant or not. As a general rule, it really falls down to what information is being collected. Consumer apps that are collecting information, such as calorie count and weight loss information, typically don’t need to be compliant. For example, the Google Fit and Apple Health apps are not collecting any PHI, so HIPAA compliancy is not necessary in these cases. On the other hand, medical apps are usually up for deeper scrutiny. If an app will be used by medical personnel, then there’s a good chance that the app will fall into the category of needing to be compliant.
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