The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in conjunction with the Obama Administration has launched a web-based portal from which mobile app developers can ask and answer questions regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA). Located at http://hipaaqsportal.hhs.gov, this is the first of its kind, with proponents touting the new portal as a means to improve patient privacy and protect against HIPAA violations.
So, what is exactly is this new portal? And how will it reduce the number of HIPAA violations? HIPAASQPORTAL differs from the OCR's general webpage on HIPAA. Rather than providing basic information pertaining to the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules, it aims to create transparency among app makers. We live in a high-tech day and age in which many medical practitioners rely on mobile apps to perform their daily operations. Subsequently, the use of these apps may place patients' data at risk for unauthorized use or access.
Once of the nuances of HIPAA compliance is keeping up to date with the technology. As more and more healthcare practitioners implement mobile apps into their operations, the gap of HIPAA compliance widens. These apps, if not properly designers in a manner that protects against data breach, could attract an audit – or worse, a violation, by the OCR. The OCR and Obama Administration are hoping to improve this area by launching the new HIPAASQPORTAL website, which contains a plethora of questions and answers, as well as other information related to HIPAA compliance of mobile apps.
“OCR launched this platform for mobile health developers and others interested in the intersection of health information technology and HIPAA privacy and security protections. Anyone may browse the site,” wrote the OCR. “Users who want to submit questions, offer comments on other submissions or vote on the relevancy of the topic can register using their email addresses, but their identities and addresses are anonymous to OCR.”
Keep in mind, however, that the OCR will not be able to answer each and every question posted on the new portal. Instead, it will attempt to post links to other webpages and sources where users can find answers. Being that the portal is still relatively new, there's not a whole lot of information posted on the HIPAASQPORTAL webpage, but that will likely change as more users sign up and begin to engage on it.