Apple Watch to Include HIPAA Compliant Text Message Apps

The Apple watch has finally been released, of sorts, with the device now being available online; although it will not be available on Apple stores until the summer. The long awaited new Apple product was given a release date of 24th April although Apple appears to be selling the device on a “built to order” basis, rather than filling its stores with a device that potentially has only limited appeal. Stores will not release the watches until late May.

The Apple Watch includes a number of features that could make it an invaluable wearable device in the healthcare industry, although the success of these devices depends not so much on the device itself, but getting third party developers on board to offer applications and additional functionality. It is these applications that really help to build support for a new wearable device as those offered by the manufacturer can be limited.

The watch appears to be attracting a number of developers which is a good sign so far. There are a number of apps that could well benefit physicians and other healthcare professionals. These include a speech to text function; which would be useful for transcribing notes and sending messages quickly and efficiently. Notifications and alerts can be received, offering some of the time saving benefits Smartphones, but with the messages much easier to access and read.

Photographs can be sent and viewed on the watch, making the device highly useful in a healthcare environment. Apps have also been developed to monitor patient health, issue pill reminders and have virtual doctor conversations. The Telehealth potential is considerable.

So far some of the useful Apps that have been created include HealthTap; an app that provides patients with instant access to medical professionals from anywhere, with a doctor on call 24/7. Anthem and CareEvolution have released Apple Watch Apps that help patients manage their health through the device, such as checking drug interactions and receiving medical information alerts. Apps have also been developed to aid diabetes sufferers with glucose information checks and alerts for both the patient and healthcare providers. A variety of Apps have been developed to issue push reminders to the wearer to take pills, take exercise, book routine medical checkups and much more.

Apple Watch and HIPAA Regulations

If the Apple Watch is to be used by physicians and patients, any Protected Health information that is recorded or transmitted through the device must be protected and a number of controls must be installed under HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.

In order for the Apple Watch to really be of benefit to healthcare providers, secure messaging applications must be available. TigerText has announced that it will be offering compliant messaging solutions via the device allowing PHI to be transmitted securely between medical professionals. The secure healthcare messaging app will ensure the device can be used without violating HIPAA Rules on data security.

With a wealth of third party applications now available that offer the privacy and security controls demanded by HIPAA, and benefits for patients and healthcare providers, the device has huge potential. However, with the pricing starting from $349, uptake in the healthcare industry may be slow as this would be too costly to issue. However, if the features are attractive and the device offers enough benefits, it is possible that the healthcare providers may have to update their BYOD policies to include the device.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.