As the digital world of Big Data continues to expand and innovate, it also presents a bounty of ethical and privacy issues revolving around how this information is shared, protected, and stored. And in this realm, MedTech mobile apps are at the forefront of the debate; there are social and voluntary instances of sharing of personal data on one end, and harsh federal regulations safeguarding data on the other. It’s a tricky area to navigate, as users want personalization and all the UX ease and enjoyment that goes with it, yet without the potential compromise of personal health information (PHI). Let’s examine a few of the ways user data can be secured on healthcare apps.
Sharing, Whether You Know It or Not
First off, you should know how much the average user gives away all sorts of data, and the sneaky and seemingly harmless ways all sorts of apps can harvest that information. Think about what the average app asks of you right after you download it. Many ask for email addresses and phone numbers right away, which is normal enough. Others, by nature of the service they provide, need additional permission and access to function: Instagram needs your camera, for example, and Uber needs your GPS location. This is fairly standard, but many apps will slowly but surely ask for additional data.
Signing up on an app using your Facebook, for instance, seems like it would save you time…but know that it makes all of your browsing history, pictures, and contacts available to an app that really doesn’t need it. Ever skip or scroll past the security and privacy clauses and just check the box at the end to get started? You may be granting this app wide access to all sorts of information, whether it is necessary for the app to function or not. And many apps will just come out and ask for your data; consider what permissions this astrology horoscope app, with over a million downloads, requests after download according to this article:
- Precise user location
- Access to user’s contacts
- Send and receive SMS messages
- Receive MMS messages
- Permission to directly call phone numbers
- Permission to reroute outgoing calls
- Access to phone call logs
- Access to camera
- Read/write contents of USB storage
- Read phone status and identity
Seems like an awful lot of access to check on your zodiac sign. But third parties pay big bucks for this sort of access and data, so many apps will ask for as much as they can get. Point is, make sure your MedTech mobile app explains exactly what information it needs from the user, and advise them on the danger of sharing and volunteering their data.
Standard MedTech App Security
Now, onto the standard security features you’ll typically find on MedTech mobile app. If your app doesn’t at least have these features, it’s probably not safe to put on the market.
- App Testing: Any healthcare app that has to properly protect user data needs to go through rigorous security testing to identify any holes or flaws in the data protection system well before the app is launched. Developers will often employ either internal or third-party “hackers”, who use every trick in the book to find vulnerable aspects of your MedTech app, which should then go back to the developers to fix the issue. You need to be able to fully document all this testing, also.
- Authentication: This can take a number of different forms, but the original authentication step is still one that makes a lot of difference. Password protection remains a must on data-sensitive apps, but you still need to instruct your users on how to create a strong password and to change it often. Scheduled push notifications can remind your user keep things safe.
- Encryption: Having comprehensive encryption, both on the user and server side, is also a basic yet effective feature to include. Many healthcare apps need to comply with HIPAA regulations, which strictly govern the storage and transmission of PHI, and many apps include those very features when communicating with doctors, insurers, and other healthcare professionals. Up-to-date encryption to protect that data is vital.
State-of-the-Art Security Features
Now, as cybercrime ever increases, MedTech mobile apps need to employ the latest technology to protect user data; not keeping up with the bad guys has dire consequences, indeed. These features are strongly recommended to make certain your app remains viable on the market.
Device Security: Your data is only as safe as the mobile device you view it on. Newer features like GPS location and IP address usage statistics can help you find your device if lost or stolen, and remote locking and data wiping helps protect or eliminate that sensitive information.
Recognition: There are several new recognition features that make devices even more secure, while also make logging on easier. Fingerprint and facial recognition features are very powerful features, especially when used in conjunction with multiple authentications. Even retinal or voice recognition technology has been used recently to ensure safety, so keep a close eye on which technology might fit best with your app.
SSL, TSL, and HTTPS: Secure sockets layer (SSL), transport layer security (TLS), and hyper text transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) are all advanced encryption tools that assure the user of secure transmissions throughout. SSL was the original technology, and TLS is the current standard, but they are sometimes interchangeable in conversation…just make certain that everything is up to date. And the HTTPS designation is there to show the users are indeed on a secure network. You may choose to develop your app to only run on HTTPS status, which demonstrates that security is one of your top priorities.
Ultimately, in the world of MedTech mobile apps, if your app isn’t secure, it’s not going to sell. Due to federal regulations and privacy concerns, consumers need to know that their apps are safe. Through a combination of clever development, safety features, and relevant advice to your users, you can keep your app secure while keeping your users happy.
When developing a MedTech app, you need to work with an expert when it comes to both design and a knowledge of app security. Here at Koombea, we’ve developed a ton of MedTech apps and you can learn more about our work in the space here.