Industry analysts agree the mobile health (mHealth) market will skyrocket. Mordor Intelligence and BIS Research both released reports in February 2018 that looked at the market growth of medical software. The expansion of options for healthcare providers, plans, and data clearinghouses is exciting. However, apps dealing with sensitive medical data must use HIPAA-compliant hosting – in part so that you are aligned with federal law and can avoid federal fines, but also as privacy and security risk-mitigation.

Analysts: medical apps to skyrocket in coming years

Worldwide, mHealth should grow at a very steady and strong rate between 2018 and 2023, estimated at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25% for the stretch by market researcher Mordor Intelligence. Their noted that the mobile health industry is in its development phase and should lead to large earnings in the coming years, as people become more knowledgeable of the field and as federal law grows friendlier toward these devices.

Mobile devices have been increasing in the field of medicine, and that means a wide spectrum of equipment, including smartphones, tablets, and wearables. About four out of every five doctors use smartphones to bolster their ability to treat patients, according to this analysis.

Since doctors are using mobile devices so much, the work of the clinician has evolved to use the array of software that has been developed to support mHealth. The ability to interact with medical data through the mobile web is helpful to clinicians in certain ways. For instance, it gives what are called point-of-care technologies to the physician or nurse as they are treating a patient. Tests have shown that immediate access to a point-of-care system leads to stronger health outcomes and higher-quality treatment.

About three in five smartphone users said that they investigated their diagnosis on their phones, according to data cited by Mordor. There are numerous healthcare applications currently available on the market, with a total of 40,000 programs internationally; that figure is expected to keep building.

It is extremely important that software meet the guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 and the Health Information for Clinical and Economic Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, which means that a search for infrastructure is a search for HIPAA compliance hosting. By choosing an organization that prioritizes and deeply understands healthcare hosting security, you can avoid federal fines and the other high costs of data breaches (since any form of auditing or certification to meet these standards assesses and validates a defensive posture).

mHealth will continue to rise as a segment as clinics embrace a more patient-centered approach, as personalized medicine becomes increasingly sophisticated, and as the demand builds for point-of-care tools for diagnosis and therapy, noted Mordor.

The potential for innovation within mHealth, given the amount of money that will pour into the arena, will offer opportunities but also issues that must be addressed. Scalability will be a big concern, as will the ability to quickly process massive volumes of data (with strong infrastructure) and intervene as effective, maintaining the privacy of confidential patient records (called protected health information, or PHI, within the regulations).

The Mordor report is generally supported by that of BIS Research. The latter analysis had similar findings to Mordor but did not expect quite as rapid of growth within healthcare software. The analyst’s figures for 2016 had healthcare software at $1.40 billion.  By 2025, the firm’s projection suggested revenue will be $11.22 billion, which would reflect a pace of 21.4% CAGR from 2017 through 2025. (To put a 21.4% CAGR into perspective, the CAGR for public cloud computing globally was projected by IDC to grow at a 19% CAGR from 2015 to 2020; in other words, 21.4% is a strong forecast.)

This more conservative projection listed factors that were fueling the rise in mHealth apps as stronger smartphone adoption internationally, better high-speed networking technologies (including 5G and 4G), and a stronger focus by government entities on mobile healthcare projects to bolster the quality of treatment while keeping costs down. It also suggested that the growth of healthcare apps is beneficial to patients because it gives them greater control over decision-making related to their treatment.

Why HIPAA compliance is important for health apps

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 may seem to be old news given its date. However, compliance with this historic bill is key to understanding how the healthcare industry must operate in accordance with federal law as mHealth apps are adopted.

The value of HIPAA is partly a political debate with no single “right answer.” However, the stated intent of HIPAA was to provide continuing health coverage between jobs (the “P” of HIPAA, Portability) and to stop healthcare fraud (the first “A” of HIPAA, Accountability), increasing protections so that health records were more secure and were not disclosed to unauthorized parties.

Certainly, the expectations established within HIPAA are helpful in providing strong defenses against theft or loss of patient data. The most relevant part of the law is Title II, in which the Security Rule lists administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect health data. Beyond compliance with the law, data breaches are extraordinarily costly to healthcare “covered entities” (the name for medical providers, plans, and data clearinghouses under HIPAA).

HIPAA compliance with cloud hosting

Part of the reason that HIPAA compliance is a critical concern for healthcare apps is that cloud computing is on the rise. While cloud technology has been praised for its security by IT thoughtleaders, and while cloud is accepted as a HIPAA-compliant solution (in public, private or hybrid form) by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), each deployment of cloud by an individual provider should be assessed to ensure that proper security and compliance mechanisms are in place.

What makes healthcare cloud hosting – also called infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – tricky is that it includes a hardware element in addition to the software it provides to run the environment. IaaS is simple to the extent that it uses a cloud framework to provide IT resources to its customers. It is complex in that it necessarily orchestrates various solutions within a single cloud server.

Integration of technology to create a legitimately HIPAA-compliant atmosphere requires careful adherence to the law to ensure that security is properly considered from every angle. Plus, it is important to remember that there is no plug-and-play healthcare solution. As Jeff Thomas, CTO of Forward Health Group, has explained to HIT Infrastructure, “Even if a solution enables you to use it in a compliant manner, it doesn’t necessarily mean it solves the compliance problem for you.”

Gartner has also addressed the challenging issue of identifying a HIPAA compliance partner, noting that while systems may in fact be compliant, it is critical to discuss compliance with any business associate you choose.

You HIPAA compliant hosting plan

The applications run by healthcare companies are frequently incredibly resource-intensive, requiring a dedicated server simply to operate effectively. This server, whether a dedicated or virtual system, needs to be both secure and compliant. That’s doubly true if the company is a healthcare application service provider, which routinely manages patient data from a wide array of firms.

Once again, Atlantic.Net is fully equipped to deliver.

Our three-machine design includes an application server that can be adapted to your needs whether your architecture is physical or virtualized. Even better, all Atlantic.Net application servers are protected with a full suite of security components, including a fully managed firewall appliance, an encrypted VPN with GeoTrust SSL, and a powerful intrusion prevention system with proactive monitoring.

Do you need HIPAA-compliant hosting for your mHealth app? At Atlantic.Net, our healthcare solutions are not just HIPAA and HITECH audited but also SOC 1 and SOC 2 certified, redundantly proven to secure and protect critical data and records. We are happy to discuss our security and compliance technologies and protocols. See our HIPAA hosting solutions.