6 Ways to Ensure Security of Mobile Health Applications

Mobile health (mHealth) has definitely taken off all over the world, especially here in the U.S. What’s driving mHealth in North America is the fact that two-thirds of all adults now own a smartphone and miniaturized sensors for remote health monitoring. At the same time, the mHealth boom has created some serious concerns regarding security.

For mHealth to be successful, this technology has to significantly impact the following:

  • Enhance the quality of healthcare
  • Improve personal wellness
  • Cut costs
  • Expand access to services

However, for this to be realized, security will need to be increased to maintain the confidentiality of patient records across all mobile platforms. This, in turn, creates a situation where several challenges need to be addressed.

Some of the challenges faced by mHealth IT professionals are as follows:

  • Consent management
  • Data sharing protocols
  • Access control and management
  • Policies and compliance
  • Confidentiality and anonymity

How Do You Build a Highly Secure Mobile Health System?

A robust mHealth application will require a top-down approach where everyone involved is made aware of the possible threats. Further, these threats don’t have to be in a virtual space alone, there also needs to be protocols to deal with the theft of physical mobile devices.

Further, if employees and patients are allowed to bring their own devices to access EHRs, this also presents IT departments with new challenges on how to remain HIPAA compliant.

So, let’s explore six ways mHealth applications can be secure and still improve healthcare.

  1. Secure Mobile Devices

There’s no way to completely protect physical devices from theft, so healthcare institutions need to take extra preventive steps to protect the data in the event that the device is stolen or lost.

So how can we accomplish this?

Here are a couple of options that can be explored and perfected over time:

  • GPS tracking and recovery
  • Remote locking and wiping
  1. Store Patient Data Remotely

Patient data that’s stored remotely on a cloud or server is more secure than information stored on mobile devices. Servers are located in highly secure structures, so there’s a better chance of ensuring that this sensitive information is kept safe.

At the same time, the information that is transferred needs to be encrypted. Further, the same rules apply when the information is at rest.

  1. Access Must be Controlled and Restricted

IT departments need to audit and manage all users’ permissions to ensure that only authorized individuals get access to the data.

This procedure can follow the same ethos applied to laptops and desktop computers.

  1. Limit Certain Apps and Data

Healthcare professionals will be using mobile devices for a mix of personal and professional interests. As a result, it can be challenging to keep information secure while not making them feel locked out.

As a rule, avoid putting patient data at risk by isolating apps that capture critical patient data. By doing this, you can protect it from other tools and apps that may have been breached.

One way to do this is by enforcing a strong bring your own device (BYOD) policy and by running mHealth apps separate from other apps. This can significantly reduce the risk of patient data being copied or penetrated.

  1. Educate! Educate! Educate!

One way to ensure that sensitive data stays secure is by educating everyone that’s involved in the process. Although everyone might have the best intentions, there’s always room for human error.

So implement clear procedures and policies about what’s acceptable and what’s not and make sure that everyone understands it.

  1. Install Only Mobile Apps that are Trusted

Although it might be surprising, not all apps on the market guarantee data protection. As a result, it will be up to IT professionals to work with health app developers to make sure that data stays safe.

The users are always going to be buying new mobile devices and new apps and platforms to access protected data. So it will be up to the institution to ensure that IT departments are up to date with changes to maintain flexibility while ensuring that the data is protected.

Like most new technology, there won’t be a standard solution when it comes to security. Technology will evolve constantly and new challenges will pop up all the time. As a result, mHealth has the potentially to take healthcare to the next level, but in order to achieve it, there needs to be a continuous effort to maintain security.

Also, check out How to Ensure IT Security Prior to Developing a Mobile Health App!

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Andrew Zola is a freelance writer, designer, and artist working in branding and marketing for over ten years. He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technology and marketing.

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