New government tool aims to help developers of health-related mobile apps

Apr 11, 2016

Health Mobile App.jpgTo help ensure mobile app developers don't run afoul of the law, a consortium of federal agencies recently created a tool that provides helpful guidance on health-related laws and compliance.

The Mobile Health Apps Interactive Tool was created as a joint effort between the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration and the Office for Civil Rights. It is a simple, interactive checklist for those developing health-related apps to make sure their program is following various laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

This free tool will be very handy for any company or app developer looking to avoid costly fines. According to the American Medical Association, the HHS issues fines ranging from $100 to up to $1.5 million or sometimes more depending on who was involved, how quickly the issue was fixed, whether the non-compliance was from willful neglect or not, and other variables.

Many app developers and organizations will likely benefit from this new tool. According to numbers from the Pew Research Center from April 2015, of the close to 67 percent of American adults that now own a smartphone, more than 60 percent of themuse their mobile device to obtain health information.

As the number of smartphone owners in the U.S. continues to rise, odds are good that more people will see their mobile devices as go-to sources of health information. Many app developers will thus seek to address this market, but they need to keep the various affected laws in mind as they create programs to fulfill this demand.

"We are committed to helping technology developers understand when and how they must comply with HIPAA, and to that end recently issued guidance illustrating scenarios that trigger HIPAA coverage," said OCR director Jocelyn Samuels. "This valuable new tool will help developers gain a greater understanding of their responsibilities under federal law."