Your Digital Health App Billing Information Needs to be HIPAA Compliant

Blog / Your Digital Health App Billing Information Needs to be HIPAA Compliant

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    Leonardo Koshoni
    Leonardo KoshoniJanuary 26, 2022

    Head of Business Analysis

    Depending on the purpose of your digital health app, you might need to store and transfer various PHI. Protected health information is classed as any information that is individually identifiable. This might include names, addresses, treatment information, prescriptions and more. 

    However, is billing information protected under HIPAA? The short answer is yes. HIPAA covers any identifiable information relating to the provision of healthcare for an individual. 

    For example, if your digital health app handles the purchases of prescriptions, then user billing information is included in PHI. Their billing information could include account numbers, addresses and names, as well as information related to their treatment.

    Digital health software development needs to be HIPAA compliant when handling protected health information. It’s critical that the project is carried out with compliance in mind. 

    digital health app billing information

    What HIPAA says about Billing Information

    HIPAA reaches further than just identifying information held by healthcare providers. Its purpose is to protect health information, and patients’ security. As a result, HIPAA’s scope extends to billing information stored by any purchasing platform in the health sector. This includes insurers, for example.

    Medical purchases don’t just involve specific billing information. The billing information could be tied to your individual medical information. For example:

    • Treatment codes

    • Diagnosis codes

    • Transaction codes

    • Insurance claim codes/data

    As the billing information and health information are linked, the data must be kept securely. Ultimately, if health information could be identified by a breach of the data, then it is bound by HIPAA.

    HIPAA is a flexible set of regulations. It must protect health information, but be able to adapt to suit new technologies and changes in data storage. It’s far better to err on the side of caution, than take the risk of non-compliance. 

    The Risks of Storing Billing Information

    There are always risks to storing any kind of personal information, especially in the digital age. We tend to be very cautious about our own information, including our billing information. 

    We keep our passwords stored in secure apps, and are used to extensive security measures to access online banking apps. Therefore, it’s key to gain that trust from those using your digital health app, too. 

    One of the major challenges with tech developments and secure information is security against phishing and hacking. They target databases of information, particularly newer developments. Typically, their primary aim is billing information. This is where they can extract the most value. As a result, it is critical that appropriate security measures are in place to protect your apps databases. 

    Another important factor to consider is privilege abuse, or errors in privileged access. This is why it is important to ensure that developers have knowledge of compliance. Developers working on the project may come into contact with PHI, or even handle the security of databases. Mitigate the risk by ensuring that any access is strictly authorized, and utilize effective monitoring. 

    Finally, there is always a risk of loss or incorrect disposal. Ensure that there is a clear protocol for the disposal of billing information, if it’s needed. PHI should not be accessible anywhere other than where the initial user has given consent. 

    Best Practices

    Your safeguards should protect billing information, and that ensures compliance. There are some best practices for the collection and storing of billing information. These are applicable even outside of HIPAA. However, they can help to make sure that your development is meeting compliance requirements. 

    • Encryption: This might seem like an obvious security measure. However, it is critical that secure encryption processes are used throughout your digital health app. All PHI should only be accessible by the intended recipient. Payment processes should be encrypted, as well as the associated databases.

    • Passwords: A surprising number of people still use basic passwords for their sensitive data. These are easily targeted by hackers. Ensure that your app requires strong passwords by specifying the necessary characters and length. Your developers should also have strong passwords for their devices and other logins.

    • Developer Training: Ensure that your engineers and project managers know HIPAA compliance. This will help them to spot potential risks and vulnerabilities during the build of the solution. They should build with compliance in mind, resulting in ultimate safety for your app users. 

    digital health app billing information


    Ideally, you’ll never have to deal with a data breach. However, it can happen, and it’s important to be prepared. The importance here is mitigating the damages of the breach. 

    Breaches are typically handled in civil cases, if there are damages. You must notify the victims of the breach, and the Office for Civil Rights. The maximum fine for HIPAA breaches is $50,000. However, bear in mind that is the limit for each breach. 

    Violations can be identified by the OCR, through HIPAA audits. The penalty for HIPAA violations is decided based on:

    • Malicious Intent

    • Level of Negligence

    • Breach or No Breach

    • Quantity of Exposure

    • Future Risk

    By ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place, and purchases are handled compliantly, you can mitigate the future risk.

    However, no matter how you handle a breach or violation, there is always a risk to trust. Processing payments requires trust from your users. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to reinstate their trust in your digital health app and its payment processes. If you’re developing for a partner, that loss of trust is passed on to them. 

    That is why it is critical that your digital health app, and its checkout/purchase processes, are HIPAA compliant from the start. This is the best way to ensure maximum protection for your users protected health information. 

    At Vertrical, we understand the importance of HIPAA compliance for our health tech developments. We have teams that are experts in all compliance. Contact us today for help building your next digital health solution compliantly. 

    To learn more about HIPAA Compliance and Software Development, Read our HIPAA Compliance Checklist for developers.



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