Top Six Recommendations for Strong Mobile Health Security

July 23, 2015 mHealth Intelligence

By Vera Gruessner

As mobile health technology continues to transform the medical industry and the workflows of healthcare providers across the country, the need for secure and safe transfer of data among multiple medical facilities and throughout the patient population becomes imperative. Mobile health security is a concept that must be addressed among healthcare providers in order to avoid data breaches and lapses in high quality patient care.

The Vitality Institute as well as the Microsoft Corporation and the University of California, San Diego have published industry guidelines specifically for addressing mobile health security within the healthcare industry, according to a company press release. The guidelines address the legal and ethical standards of the mobile health field and provide some best practices. A proposal for the guidelines was released recently and a public comment period was opened for the next three months to gather more feedback on mobile health security.

“I urge anyone with an interest in the future of health technology to review the guidelines and comment.  This includes consumers who use wearables, smartwatches and health apps, along with leaders of the companies that develop, market and distribute these products,” Derek Yach, Executive Director of the Vitality Institute and Senior Vice President of the Vitality Group, said in a public statement.  “Personalized health technology has great potential to benefit the health of countless individuals and it is critical that we proactively address these legal, social and ethical challenges so that potential benefit is not hindered.”

With the wide range of mobile technologies including wearables, smartphones, and mHealth apps making headway throughout the market, it is more important than ever before to have strong mobile health security strategies in place to avoid data breaches. There are six specific recommendations that the guidelines propose to improve mobile health security. These include:

1. Protect user data especially privacy

2. Define ownership of user health data

3. Simplify the process for accurately deciphering data among users

4. Incorporate scientific evidence when developing mobile health products

5. Utilize evidence-based strategies when addressing health-related behavior

6. Remain available to diminished populations

“These responsibility guidelines provide a framework for protecting consumers and treating them fairly and ethically.  I hope this comment period will open a global dialogue on these issues and help create the strongest possible guidelines,” stated Kevin Patrick, MD, MS, a professor and researcher at the University of California, San Diego and one of the authors of the guidelines.

Stakeholders have until October 15, 2015 to comment on these guidelines. Afterward several medical establishments will pilot the finalized guidelines on mobile health security before it becomes part of standard best practices.

“Innovative personal health technology products are producing completely new categories of data and creating completely new challenges for developers, clinicians and users,” said Dennis Schmuland, MD, Microsoft’s chief health strategy officer for the U.S. Health and Life Sciences division and an author of the guidelines.  “Now, as we create guidelines to help the legal, ethical and societal considerations catch up to the innovation, I encourage my colleagues to review the guidelines and share their input.”

More details on the mobile health security guidelines can be found in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives. With the expansion of remote monitoring tools, sensors, and wearables, there is much more health data available to consumers and providers. However, mobile health security will need to be addressed to ensure patient data is safe and protected.

“These personalized health technologies produce completely new categories of data that make precision medicine both a reality and potentially cost-effective. The voluminous data trails these smartphones, sensors, devices, and wearables leave behind also open new doors for misuse and harm by well-intentioned innovators and malevolent characters,” the proposed guidelines stated.

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