Apple Says FaceTime Can Become HIPAA-Compliant Through Proper Configuration

Apple’s FaceTime video calling functionality was one of the most popular features of the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, and could have far reaching implications in the healthcare industry — if it was secured and adhered to rigorous HIPAA standards that is.

That may be a reality, however, as Apple has stated that FaceTime can become fully HIPAA-compliant through proper configuration.  FaceTime sessions are already encrypted, and through a WPA2 Enterprise configuration, FaceTime video sessions can have the extra security safeguards that HIPAA requires for communication.

In an email from Apple to ZDNet on the subject, Apple explains that “the iPad supports WPA2 Enterprise to provide authenticated access to your enterprise wireless network.  WPA2 Enterprise uses 128-bit AES encryption, giving users the highest level of assurance that their data will remain protected when they send and receive communications over a Wi-Fi network connection.  In addition to your existing infrastructure each FaceTime session is encrypted end to end with unique session keys. Apple creates a unique ID for each FaceTime user, ensuring FaceTime calls are routed and connected properly.”

This is substantial on numerous levels.  For one, introducing iPads into fully secure telemedicine solutions would give the concept an enormous boost given the ubiquity of Apple devices.  Second, telemedicine and other digital healthcare initiative are eligible for government grants, but only HIPAA-compliant devices are eligible.  In addition, with Apple putting these security and regulatory systems in place, the iOS platform in general could become a hotbed of advanced mHealth innovation — well beyond the basic health and fitness apps we’re seeing today.

The only thing that could dampen the excitement around introducing FaceTime as a HIPAA-compliant mHealth solution is regulatory scrutiny, especially in light of the recent FDA meeting in which mobile health devices and how to regulate them came into focus.  The so-called “intended use” debate that was a hot topic at the FDA meeting could have implications on FaceTime as well — especially given the fact that it’s a consumer app that’s promoted by Apple