The Importance of Data Security in Healthcare Software

Originally published at onix-systems.com.

The role of innovation in the health industry has been continually growing over the last decade. According to a recent report by McKinsey, med-tech’s leading trends include integrated solutions, regulations, smarter devices, and real-time analytics. New software is improving the quality of medical treatment, providing solutions for various issues in healthcare, and enhancing the entire industry’s performance.

However, these improvements come at a price. Security issues caused by various factors can lead to the protected health information (PHI) being compromised, and even the loss of data.

The health industry experiences more breaches than any other sector. Stolen patient records can be sold for $363 per record on the black market. Criminals can use the information for frauds and scams or simply to blackmail individuals, using sensitive information about their physical or mental health. Every data breach reinforces the governments’, healthcare providers’, and patients’ concerns about information security in healthcare.

This article aims to explain the general requirements for data security in healthcare applications and describe the ways to meet those requirements.

The Basics of Healthcare Data Security

It’s fair to mention that not all healthcare apps are the subject of data protection regulation in different countries. This can be easily defined by checking the functions your app will perform.

If you are going to launch a healthcare education, medical reference, fitness or yoga app, some treatment reminders, or other solutions that don’t require entering, processing, or exchanging very specific user data, you don’t need to worry about those regulations.

However, regional and international regulations should definitely apply if the software you created qualifies as:

  • Healthcare reference & database apps
  • Professional networking apps
  • Doctor appointment & clinical assistance apps
  • Patient tracking apps
  • Telehealth mobile apps (doctor-on-demand apps)

All these apps deal with different types of personal healthcare information that has to be stored, transmitted, or analyzed by various institutions and strongly protected from third-party intervention.

Healthcare Information Protection in Different Countries

Here are the main healthcare data security regulations you need to follow while developing your own healthcare app:

HIPAA Regulations in the U.S. and Canada

The main principles of these regulations are as follows

  • Content encryption: Any electronic protected health information (ePHI) must be encrypted before the transmission.
  • Storage encryption: The electronic patient PHI storage must be encrypted.
  • Backup adapting: The data has to be recovered and restored if needed.
  • Data access: Any ePHI is available for the authorized staff.
  • Data integrity: The ePHI can’t be changed illegally.
  • Secure disposal: The ePHI will be removed from the storage permanently if it is no longer needed.
  • Business Associate Agreement: The most critical point is that the ePHI can be hosted only on services that have signed the Business Associate Agreement. If not, the data should be hosted on secure in-house servers.

PIPEDA in Canada

GDPR Regulations in Europe

Non-EU countries, such as Serbia, Norway, or Iceland, have also accepted the GDPR or adjusted them for their respective healthcare sectors.

This system covers a broad range of software and has more general regulations than HIPAA’s. To get approval for a healthcare app in Europe, you should follow these regulations:

  • Inform your clients. All the information about the data storage and transmission should be delivered to the users.
  • Provide the reasons for data exchange.
  • Get approval from the data owner.
  • Anonymize the data collected.
  • Provide access to the data owners.
  • Notify the data owners about any breaches.
  • Allow the data owners to withdraw their consent of personal data processing.
  • Ensure secure data flow and exchange.
  • Delete personal information upon request.

International Standards of Asia-Pacific Region

Here is a list of countries and their personal health data rules, sorted by the level of regulation, starting from the highest:

  • China — CyberSecurity Law
  • South Korea — Personal Information Protection Act
  • Taiwan — Personal Data Protection Act
  • India — Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act
  • Australia — Privacy Act

There are many things to consider to comply with the HIPAA regulations in the US, PIPEDA in Canada, GDPR in the EU, and so forth, before launching your own software in the healthcare market. Of course, once built, the app should be improved on a regular basis to prevent third-party intervention.

Biggest Risks for Data Security in Healthcare Systems

Because these attacks are becoming more extensive, they can result in much higher losses for the companies.

What are the weakest points that hackers target and that may cause data breaches? Here is a short list of the critical factors to consider.

#1 Use of Outdated Software, Legacy Systems, and Obsolete Technologies

#2 Cloud Threats

#3 Transfer of Electronic Health Records

#4 Third-Party Data Access

#5 Employee or User Errors

Employees’ errors can also result in disastrous and expensive consequences for a healthcare organization. Security awareness practice helps train healthcare workers in making rational decisions in critical situations.

Best Solutions for Ensuring Information Security in Healthcare Apps

So, what are the major improvements you can apply to your healthcare app?

Two-Factor Authentication

Data Wiping

Continuous App Testing and Updates

SSL Technology

Backup

Storage Encryption

Conclusion

However, by applying novel yet proven technologies, you can prevent data breaches and other illegal activities around your patient PHI and otherwise improve your software and customer experience.

If you’re interested in a professional approach and secure app development, please contact us. The Onix team has real expertise in the health tech industry, can offer modern solutions that perfectly fit your healthcare software, and can resolve your most complicated problems.

Meanwhile, you may wish to download our checklist with tips on how to ensure your healthcare software security and data integrity. It may also prove handy when you decide to create your own app or need to make sure your developers are building a product suitable for a local or global market.

Onix-Systems provides IT services in website, mobile app and emerging technologies software development. Check our blog -> https://onix-systems.com/blog