OCR vows to help providers with mobile apps

Medical entities will have more support with using mobile apps according to the OCR.

Recognizing the importance of federal support, the government may grant health providers assistance in making use of health apps for mobile devices. A letter from Sylvia Burwell, of the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office of Civil Rights, recently suggested that her department will take proactive steps to make it easier for organizations to find HIPAA compliance with mobile apps.

Burwell addresses her letter to Oregon representative Peter DeFazio and references three major goals of the HHS, in response to the Representative's previous queries in a separate letter.

These points concern clarifying HIPAA compliance expectations for technology companies, helping businesses that use cloud storage to understand HIPAA requirements better, and assisting tech businesses on a regular basis.

She also referenced a series of different specific measures the Department might take, such as special "listening sessions" to help develop better policies, and directed readers to the official OCR website.

MobiHealthNews spoke to Morgan Reed of the App Association, which will be working with the government on this initiative, on the importance of mobile health regulations. While he supports the letter, he thinks there are more steps that need to be taken.

"There are all of these questions about what happens when the patient generates the data and then hands it to the physician," he said. "Now, in truth, we think a lot of them have been answered. But those are the level of questions that still are plaguing our industry."

Although it is promising that officials are taking notice of the need for HIPAA assistance, practices that interact with medical information have to make sure they have full understanding of how it relates to them specifically. That is one reason why consultants will help medical entities reduce HIPAA violations as mobile applications become more policed and more common.

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