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Recently, I've noticed a few questions on Stack Overflow that people have asked about how to make their applications compliant with the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Two examples of this would be this question regarding websites and this one about iPhone applications.

At first, I thought these might be off topic because HIPAA compliance would seem to be more of a legal issue, but there can be a good technical component to questions like this, including specific programming concepts.

Are questions like this appropriate for Stack Overflow, or should they be closed as off topic?

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+1, you actually got the acronym right. – user7116 Jul 21 '11 at 20:19
up vote 6 down vote accepted

To the FAQ!

We feel the best Stack Overflow questions have a bit of source code in them, but if your question generally covers …

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • matters that are unique to the programming profession

… then you’re in the right place to ask your question!

Nope, nope, nope, and nope. Generic HIPAA compliance questions even in the context of "how do I make my program compliant" don't really meet any of those requirements. Without a specific question about their implementation, I'd say they're off topic.

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In addition, the liabilities, oh the liabilities... – Won't Jul 21 '11 at 19:35
In regards to the last bullet point, an argument could be made that specific changes might need to be made to the design of an application (using a specific encryption framework, etc.) in response to the known HIPAA requirements. This could be seen as a unique challenge faced by programmers when building such an application. – Brad Larson Jul 21 '11 at 21:34

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