What is PHI & How it is Making an Impact on the Healthcare IT Industry?

What is PHI & How it is Making an Impact on the Healthcare IT Industry?
PHI stands for Protected Health Information or Personal Health Information. It is associated with HIPAA and healthcare. If you are into healthcare services or have clients that need health data, then you need to consider what PHI under HIPAA. Protected Health Information is defined as identifiable information that relates to the past, present, and future health status for an individual that is maintained by a HIPAA covered entity. 

Health Information such as treatment data, diagnosis, and other medical information is considered to be protected under HIPAA. While PHI is associated with physical records, ePHI is stored and received electronically. It is important to note that PHI does not include data that consists of employment records and only includes health info maintained by HIPAA. 

Let us understand what Protected Health Information is in-depth. 

What Does the Term Protected Health Information (PHI) Mean in Healthcare Service?

It includes over 18 identifiers. They are Phone Numbers, Fax numbers, Social Security numbers, Web Uniform Resource Locator, Email address, Dates, Biometric identifiers, and others. 

If any of this information is removed, the information is regarded as de-identified protected health information. In other words, PHI is medical information that includes conversations between nurses and health professionals about the patient’s treatment. 

To be data considered and regulated by HIPAA, it should be personally identifiable to the patient and disclosed to an entity during care. Common examples of PHI are blood test results, an MRI scan, billing information from a doctor, and others. Other examples that can’t be considered PHI are calories burnt, heart-rate readings, and blood sugar readings. 

How Consumer Health Information and Personal Health Information are Different

Sometimes people find PHI and Consumer Heath Information similar. If the application you are testing transmits the users’ personally-identifiable health record and is used by an entity in the course of an era, then you are working with PHI that needs to be HIPAA compliant. 

If the application collects health information but does not share it with a covered entity at any time, then you do not need HIPAA compliant. The current trend in data collection is towards the sharing of data and making it PHI. 

What Do You Understand by a Covered Entity Under HIPAA?

When it comes to healthcare service, a covered entity is something that provides operations and treatment in healthcare. As per the US Department of Health & Human Services, the covered entities use PHI as part of their patient care. Healthcare providers can be dentists, clinics, psychologists, or anyone related to healthcare services. 

Covered entities also include government programs associated with health and clearinghouses. Health plans in this sector consist of Medicaid and health insurance plans. Furthermore, people or school who manage PHI and wants to enroll their students in a health plan is considered under the definition of Health plan and must be HIPAA compliant. 

How Must HIPAA PHI be Protected?

The Security rule covers entities to protect against anticipated threats to the security of the PHI. The covered entities must safeguard to ensure the integrity and the availability of PHI. 

HIPAA requires administrative safeguards to be implemented. Physical safeguards for PHI data consists of electronic devices and physical records. Administrative safeguards include controls to limit and security awareness training. 

Benefits of Protected Health Information Apps for Healthcare

When identifiable information is used by a HIPAA or business associate, it is considered protected health information. Several health apps access information such as blood pressure rate and heart rate and also personal identifiers. But the data collected by the trackers are not covered under HIPAA rules. 

If a doctor recommends a PHI app to record or track BMI, then the information is not subjected to HIPAA rules as the app was not built for the doctor. 

However, a patient may request a pharmacy to send his/her data to a third party app or through an insecure channel. In that case, the pharmacy should not be responsible for wrong access to the patient’s information during the transmission of the app. 

While everyone is using tablets or smartphones, it is not a surprise that healthcare experts, including doctors and nurses, are looking for PHI apps to provide better care to the patients. They also look for the app that is HIPAA compliant. PHI apps offer benefits to healthcare services in several ways. 

1. Minimal Healthcare Costs

Every day new technology is launched and guarantees to provide better benefits than before. When it comes to healthcare, then patients and healthcare experts would choose an app that is budget-friendly plus improves the interaction between the two. Different healthcare apps are built by keeping in mind the traveling time and manual visits. 

The apps allow patients and healthcare professionals to interact virtually and to make it convenient for patients living in rural areas. Furthermore, people can also buy medicines through healthcare apps without going to the store and traveling to hospitals. With these apps, the patients could choose the hospitals within their budget. 

2. Better Patient Engagement

It is assumed that patients who have access to records and reminders stay more engaged with their doctors. Patients assume that they would receive better treatment, and doctors would respond immediately. Here are other ways of how healthcare apps are improving patient care

3. Information Within a Click

When patients and doctors’ information is stored in the apps, then both can access it from any time and anywhere. This improves customer service and allows healthcare experts to work from anywhere. 

4. Enhanced Efficiency

A PHI compliant app is designed to enhance communication between patients and doctors. The healthcare professionals have access to share information with their colleagues, and also patients could see their test results without visiting the office. Not in an emergency, but for routine check-ups, these healthcare apps are proving beneficial for patients. 

5. Data and Privacy

Earlier, it was believed that free or paid healthcare apps might send confidential information to third parties and researchers. Also, the risk of data breaching is more in healthcare services. But with the enhancement in technology, the app developers have started building the app that is secure and is compliant with HIPAA. 

If you are using any of the healthcare apps, then make sure that they are HIPAA compliant and do not share any information with the third party without any access. Healthcare experts should make a custom mobile app and ensure compliance with HIPAA and PHI for better patient care. Here are other key points regarding healthcare app security and privacy that you should know. 

6. Self Monitor One’s Health

One of the biggest advantages of using PHI apps is they allow the patients to monitor themself at home and anywhere. The apps have features that enable the patients to check their health own. They can measure blood pressure level, heart rate, and cholesterol level at their fingertips. 

7. Give Opportunity to New Business Models

With the rising trend of healthcare apps, the focus is not only on healthcare professionals and patients, but it is also providing an opportunity for new business models. Most of the people are using healthcare apps for varying reasons. This is giving new challenges and competition to the industry. 

Future of PHI and Health Apps

Every day a new healthcare app is launched. Different experts have predicted the future of PHI apps and devices. The applications are upgrading at a faster rate and achieving the goal of the healthcare system. Keeping in mind the privacy and different factors, the app developers are creating impeccable health applications for the future. 

If you are new to the field, then this guide to build a healthcare app could help you. You can also take experts’ help to design and build the apps for better results. It is estimated that the healthcare market would reach over $210 billion in the coming years. Also, these healthcare tech trends would be seen shaping the healthcare industry. 

Final Words

Protected Health Information (PHIs) that work outside of HIPAA can adversely affect the interests of consumers in different ways. The addition of health records to PHRs may required protections of old records. Any consumer of healthcare experts agreeing to signup for PHR must proceed after knowing the PHR deeply. 

We, at Covetus, have a team of experts who are experienced and know the ins and outs of healthcare services. Furthermore, they understand the latest trends going in the healthcare field and are well-versed in developing the apps and websites that would benefit the organization. We understand the transformational phase going in the healthcare industry and offer expertise in a range of medical standards like HL7, DICOM, and more.
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