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Data Security for Mhealth Applications: Why Is It Important?

Abstract illustration for telemedicine

Mobile applications have several vulnerabilities users may not be aware of. This is problematic for those who use mobile apps for medical purposes. Security and privacy should be significant concerns for patients and developers alike. This article highlights the problems with the security and privacy risks of telemedicine. It also provides advice on making more secure apps with the help of Diversido, one of Ukraine’s leading technology companies.

Reasons to Care About Health Information Privacy and Security

There are several reasons to be concerned about mobile application security. The primary reason to worry about security is that health information is confidential. Someone’s compromised mental health records could be embarrassing. They could also harm reputations and chances of starting or maintaining careers. Additionally, compromised medical data could impact someone’s insurance coverage. 

One can cancel stolen credit cards, but someone’s medical history cannot be. When this information becomes public, the owner’s privacy is damaged beyond repair.

Someone’s medical history is not the only thing to worry about when using corresponding apps. Health care organizations often have their clients’ insurance and financial information. Insurance and financial information can include sensitive financial information. They may also contain addresses and social security numbers. Cybercriminals like to get a hold of this information and sell it online.

Finally, these applications may not correctly function if they have been hacked. Many aspects of society have become digitized, including health care. Doctors and nurses often rely on such information to get accurate information. This data is essential for developing treatment plans. Without this information available, patient health can be harmed.

Vulnerabilities in Mhealth App Technology

People are well aware of data and security breaches because news coverage reports on them regularly. Any mobile health application can have several vulnerabilities. Hackers will exploit them for illicit again given the opportunity. This is especially the case when the manufacturer is not addressing security. On the whole, medical apps have several weaknesses:

  • Out of date software
  • Overly complex privacy agreements
  • Non-adherence to those agreements
  • Shadow IT workarounds

A significant issue related to mobile health applications is privacy. This includes ignorance of how patient data is collected and shared. Mobile applications have different data privacy policies. Users may not understand what they are signing. Even worse: data policies may not accurately state what is done with user information.

Agreements often cover these issues, but the clauses related to data sharing are buried several pages deep in the contract. Also, the wording often uses a lot of legal jargon that ordinary people do not understand. Complicating matters is that technology companies may not adhere to the agreement. App users may not even know that the agreement has been violated.

Data breaches and privacy receive a lot of attention. But shadow information technology is something that fewer people know. Shadow IT is when departments within an organization use outside IT systems. These workarounds allow organizations to overcome the problems of their central IT systems. However, doing so increases the chances of data breaches.

Shadow IT procedures may not be approved or monitored by the central IT department. Also, those who put in place these procedures may not be adequately vetted. They may not understand how the system works in full. The result can be contractors stealing data. They also may not finish their work without explaining what they did. The end result is that the app is damaged. This can negatively affect the customer’s experience.

What Can Be Done to Improve Mhealth App Security?

Healthcare provider companies can solve the problems listed above by updating their apps. Software patches contain security updates and close vulnerabilities in the application. Providers should assess all patches and ensure they will not harm the existing system. There are several more things that companies can do to improve security and privacy on their apps:

  • Update applications
  • Have sound protocols for implementing shadow IT
  • Properly vet contractors
  • Make understandable and well-written privacy agreements

Updates for applications should be available and tested before they hit the market. Doing this allows developers to eliminate problems before clients encounter them. Diversido thoroughly tests all apps and their updates before they hit the market. That way consumers encounter few if any problems like those listed here. 

Shadow IT workarounds should be approved by the central IT department. Also, the central IT department should be proactive in monitoring the entire process. Many problems related to shadow IT are cases of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

Approval and monitoring include vetting any contractors a department wants to bring in. Conduct background checks and check the contractor’s references during the interview process. Taking these steps will help to avoid problems with unscrupulous and unskilled contractors.

Privacy policies are a different matter. Companies have to share client data to be profitable if they are marketing free apps. They should be diligent in making sure customers know what is being done with their data. Make the privacy agreements more readable and reduce the amount of legal jargon.

Make sure that the privacy agreements align with the company’s data-sharing practices. If they do not align, the company is opening itself up to a class-action lawsuit for breach of contract. Employees should be familiar with the company’s data-sharing policies to avoid potential litigation. Furthermore, an attorney would write or review all agreements.

Closing Thoughts About the Importance of Secure Mhealth Applications

Medical provider companies often do not have the resources to create these applications. But they still need apps tailored to their needs and those of their clients. Outsourcing is a way to get around this problem. The problem with outsourcing is finding a company with the skills needed to do a proper job. 

Diversido is a Ukrainian IT company that has been working with different businesses since 2013, including medical providers. Moreso, they are HIPPA compliant and familiar with American healthcare regulations and requirements. They can assist in improving or creating mobile applications in the shortest possible time! 

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