5 Things developer should know while working with healthcare projects

Irfan Yusanif
4 min readFeb 24, 2020

Being a software engineer in healthcare domain from the last 4 years I can say this field is a bit different, the most important thing is the patient’s data or PHI — we will look into details shortly. If patient’s data is breached it results in suing all the stockholders involved in breaching which includes manufacturer company & developers as well. The data integrity is controlled by a law named HIPPA.

HIPAA

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is United States legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

The act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Aug. 21, 1996, contains five sections, or titles.

Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform

Title I protects health insurance coverage for individuals who lose or change jobs. It also prohibits group health plans from denying coverage to individuals with specific diseases and pre-existing conditions, and from setting lifetime coverage limits.

Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification

Title II directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. It also requires healthcare organizations to implement secure electronic access to health data and to remain in compliance with privacy regulations set by HHS.

Title III: HIPAA Tax-Related Health Provisions

Title III includes tax-related provisions and guidelines for medical care.

Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements

Title IV further defines health insurance reform, including provisions for individuals with pre-existing conditions and those seeking continued coverage.

Title V: Revenue Offsets

Title V includes provisions on company-owned life insurance and the treatment of those who lose their U.S. citizenship for income tax purposes.

From development point of view, adhering to HIPAA Title II is what most people mean when they refer to HIPAA compliance.

What information is included in HIPAA?

PHI (Protected health information) includes:

  • a patient’s name, address, birth date and Social Security number
  • an individual’s physical or mental health condition
  • any care provided to an individual, or
  • information concerning the payment for the care provided to the individual that identifies the patient, or information for which there is a reasonable basis to believe could be used to identify the patient.

What is not included in HIPAA?

  • Employees information
  • If health data is not included with patients name, address then it will not be considered as PHI

Violating HIPAA can result in penalty from 100$ per violation to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Patient’s data privacy is important!

Who is covered by and must follow HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to organizations that are considered HIPAA-covered entities, including health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires covered entities that work with a HIPAA business associate to produce a contract that imposes specific safeguards on the PHI that the business associate uses or discloses.

Health Level 7

HL7 refers to a set of international standards for transfer of clinical and administrative data between software applications used by various healthcare providers.

FHIR

FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is a standard describing data formats and elements and an application programming interface for exchanging electronic health records. The standard was created by the Health Level Seven International health-care standards organization

Famous EHR systems

  • Epic
  • Cernter
  • All script

Surescripts

Surescripts does not sell, develop, or endorse e-prescribing or EHR software.
Instead, Surescripts works with existing medical software companies to certify their prescribing software for access to the Surescripts network.
This enables you to choose the software that best suits the needs of your practice.

Summary

  • HIPPA is the act which talks about & regulates the privacy & protecting patients' data.
  • PHI (Protected health information) is the information which falls under HIPPA act, it includes patient demographic information & patient health records
  • HL7 is a standard data format used to send & receive patient data between different healthcare systems
  • Another thing that we have to focus is speed. You are not supposed to keep a sick person waiting
  • Health data is generalized in the form of codes (ICD 9, ICD 10, NDC, LOINC etc ). So you also need to keep track of all of them
  • Don’t share the actual patient's data with development team, instead use masked data

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