How to Improve mHealth Security and Privacy Concerns

Protection of Mobile Health Data – WHY ?

Health Information is usually thought to be a very sensitive information of an individual. In order to make sure that mHealth has a fully integrated role in the healthcare delivery, it is important to develop patients’ confidence that their mHealth data will remain secure and confidential hence protecting their health privacy.

The reasons to give more protection to mobile data than to non-mobile data are:

The environment is constantly in flux.
mHealth is not just a homogenous cluster of mechanisms, rather is way more than this.
Medical devices alone contain a huge variety of different technologies for diverse population, for multiple purposes.
mHealth solutions are progressively being assimilated into EMR and EHR such that the mHealth privacy concerns now must be reflected in the context of network systems.
mHealth doesn’t know any geographical borders, either it within the United States or across the globe.

“Privacy” and “Security” – Are they different?

Just like any other healthcare data, it is particularly important to distinguish between “privacy” and “security” for mHealth data. The former means to have a right of making choices with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of their health information while the latter means physical, administrative, and technological safeguards that are used to shield the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data. Patient’s privacy cannot be preserved without adequate data safeguards; however there is a tendency to focus on both.

Infographic on mHealth health care data

mobile health care

How to improve mHealth privacy and security?

The FDA (Food and drug Administration) has clarified which apps will be considered as “medical devices”. In the United States, there is no privacy legislation applicable to the collection, use and disclosure of the health information involved in the use of such consumer medical-apps. Here are some helpful insights

Develop some improved guidelines for creators. Guidelines may include standards for acceptance specific to healthcare recognizing the sensitive of mHealth data.
Develop review standards for apps and software.
Develop standards for corroborating efficiency. These may include addressing what type of testing is required for a mobile app to prove effectiveness in the way in which clinical trials are required to do so for pharmaceuticals).

The security related to the medical apps and software in improving due to various guidelines and practices developed by medical industry groups and associations. Many of these standards and guidelines address both privacy and security. Although they are applicable to all types of personal data but they may be adapted to apply to mHealth information specifically.

Assume a privacy and security by such an approach that the app builds privacy and security from the beginning of the conceptual development phase
Develop standards based on Protected Health Information (PHI) for software and hardware.
Develop guidelines for transferring and storing PHI.
Design and improve testing requirements.
Construct policies and procedures.

Initiatives across the globe for Mobile Health Technology:

U.S is undoubtedly not the only country in the race of challenged by privacy and security issues, especially in the space of mHealth data. Other countries take diverse initiatives to overcome these issues, there may always be something which can be adapted to the U.S health environment. Moreover, it is also important to prudently get engaged in the discussions of such innovative approaches so that none of them leaves a negative impact on the mHealth community and serves as a model for future American health regulation.