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How to Overcome the Problems Achieving HIPAA Compliance for Mobile Devices

By

Inbal Meshulam

| April 19, 2023
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Implementing and maintaining a secure and compliant HIPAA environment places a heavy burden on healthcare organizations, with current solutions failing to consistently meet the strict regulatory requirements. Symmetrium’s compliant-by-design mobile device management solution is now a game changer, ensuring HIPAA compliance through the use of a single, low maintenance application. 

The use of mobile devices has become a staple feature of every healthcare environment. But while they are transforming patient care, the security risks mobile devices pose to confidential patient information is a growing risk. This is why access to healthcare data via mobile devices has been specifically targeted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law requiring the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed.

 

Challenges Involved in Protecting ePHI

HIPAA protects electronic protected health information (ePHI) that is produced, saved, transferred or received in an electronic form. Every entity that has access to ePHI needs to be compliant to HIPAA rules. This applies to doctors, nurses, clinics, pharmacies, insurance companies and anyone accessing ePHI — they all need to be compliant. 

HIPAA states: “Healthcare providers, other covered entities, and business associates may use mobile devices to access electronic protected health information (ePHI) as long as appropriate physical, administrative, and technical safeguards are in place to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the ePHI on the mobile device and appropriate BAAs [Business Associate Agreements] are in place with any third-party service providers for the device and/or the cloud that will have access to e-PHI.”

However, staff mobility, remote employees, third-party contractors and BYOD policies are just a few of the reasons implementing adequate security and compliance solutions to meet HIPAA requirements is increasingly difficult. 

 

Vulnerabilities in Current Solutions 

With a heavy burden placed on the healthcare sector to be HIPAA compliant, the first line of defense is to ensure devices include the necessary safeguards to guarantee against theft and data loss through the use of a robust layer of security.
HIPAA regulations also require that ePHI data must be encrypted when transmitted over a network. The most popular way of doing this is to create a VPN through which VDIs (virtual desktop infrastructure) can connect to the data, therefore negating the need for it to be encrypted. This however raises problems.

Usage can be limited because a user needs to make sure no one else is using the VDI. This means they have limited flexibility and can be more difficult to scale as needed. This can be a problem for organizations with fluctuating user numbers or those looking to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. There are also security concerns as users operating in a VDI environment can as easily click on a malicious link in an email or on a web page as someone using a physical desktop. 

VDIs also require a heavy level of management and maintenance, which places a heavy burden for qualified IT staff where ongoing training and staff turnover can become problematic. To comply with HIPAA data encryption and data wiping tools may also need to be implemented and maintained. This can add to the management burden. 

 

Achieving HIPAA Compliance with One Solution

HIPAA compliance can be achieved using only one solution. Symmetrium is HIPAA compliant by design for mobile devices. Symmetrium creates virtual mobile devices (VMDs) that reside within the protected perimeter of a healthcare organization’s network and thus adhere to all existing enterprise network and HIPAA security protocols. This ensures that ePHI data is kept private and protected, avoiding security breaches and massive fines.

Symmetrium VMDs use P2P encrypted streaming, which allows healthcare workers to view ePHI data via a portal using their own devices. This view-only access means ePHI data never leaves the protected organizational network and therefore is never transferred to a user’s external device. This ensures the data at all times remains secure and compliant, never coming to rest on devices outside of the protected organizational IT environment.

The result is an easier life for regulatory officers and CIOs thanks to the less complicated management of ePHI data, because:

  1. Symmetrium’s VMDs become a virtual extension of all existing HIPAA compliance protocols, are seamless to deploy and offer a native mobile experience.

  2. They immediately ensure HIPAA compliance in BYOD environments using custom end-to-end encrypted streaming with no ePHI data at rest. This means that each mobile user is treated as an on-prem endpoint, which they can control when and where users can access ePHI data.

  3. Symmetrium’s minimum-resources mobile access solution needs very light operational requirements and delivers high security compliance demands that integrate smoothly into existing data access protocols. The result is HIPAA compliance using one single app. 

 

Isn’t it time you reconsidered your approach to meeting HIPAA requirements? Book a demo with Symmetrium here.

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