Guide to HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage


Technological advances have provided countless benefits for patient care, from magnetic resonance imaging to improved doctor-patient communication. Many healthcare providers are shifting to cloud-based computing, modernizing operations in ways never before imagined. As these organizations seek to leverage HIPAA compliant apps, they need to make sure they select HIPAA compliant cloud storage. With that in-hand, these organizations can take advantage of the latest innovation and resources while also meeting business compliance standards.

Cloud Storage and HIPAA Guidelines

Is cloud computing an acceptable way for healthcare organizations to store protected health information (or PHI)? The short answer is yes. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services specifically prepared guidelines explaining how HIPAA affects cloud computing and what businesses can do to comply with HIPAA’s Security Rule and Privacy Rule. As long as these rules are followed, cloud storage is compatible with HIPAA.

Like many aspects of online business, cloud computing can streamline day-to-day processes significantly. However, increased productivity cannot sacrifice data security. In today’s digital age, it’s more important than ever to safeguard private health information. One of the primary reasons that HIPAA guidelines exist is to ensure patient data remains safe and secure.

HIPAA regulations apply to numerous organizations that interact with patients. Large hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes are covered entities, and so are doctors, psychologists, and dentists with private practices. Other healthcare businesses required to comply with HIPAA rules are healthcare clearinghouses, health insurance providers, and HMOs. Before making the switch to cloud computing, these organizations need to analyze HIPAA guidelines to ensure that their online data is stored appropriately.

Important HIPAA Terms Explained:

The Advantages of HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage

There are many reasons why cloud computing is attractive to modern healthcare organizations. For one thing, it reduces the amount of physical space required for onsite data storage. Cloud computing essentially delivers turnkey solutions. Here are several additional benefits:

In some cases, cloud storage offers increased data security compared to in-house digital storage. In the past, theft of laptops, cellphones, or paper forms may have meant the loss of PHI in addition to major HIPAA violations. By storing all PHI on the cloud instead of local devices, this threat is virtually eliminated.

HIPAA Security Considerations for Cloud Computing

With advances in technology, the benefits of cloud storage come with certain dangers. In reality, any type of digital data storage has inherent security risks, and web-based solutions face additional threats to information. Effective cloud computing solutions must be able to protect against hacking, cyberattacks, and malware. This requires staying at the cutting edge of antivirus technology and internet security.

To comply with HIPAA standards, PHI must be kept secure at all times. Healthcare organizations must implement technical safeguards for transmitting patient data to and from the cloud, ensuring that only authorized users can access it. In addition, PHI must be adequately protected at rest, or while stored on CSP platforms. In many cases, this means ensuring that stored data is encrypted.

Not complying with HIPAA is a severe matter for healthcare businesses of any size. Violations can lead to hefty penalties, lawsuits, and loss of client trust. The maximum civil fine for deliberate violations is $50,000 per event and $1.5 million per year. In addition, the negative publicity surrounding any data breach can severely impact the profits and client base of medical professionals.

Tips for Getting Started With HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage

The first step in setting up HIPAA compliant cloud storage is selecting an appropriate CSP. The platform chosen has a massive impact on PHI security. Any prospective CSP needs to supply healthcare organizations with a Business Associate Agreement. The BAA is essentially a contract between the CSP and medical professionals. This document sets out the responsibilities of the CSP regarding PHI safeguards, and it requires platforms to comply with HIPAA standards.

However, this doesn’t automatically mean that the CSP is a good fit for healthcare providers or that its data security is adequate. That’s why the next step in HIPAA compliance is performing a comprehensive risk assessment, which is a key part of your company’s HIPAA compliance checklist. This often involves requesting a third-party evaluation of platform security. In reality, risk management should be an ongoing thing due to the importance of preventing data breaches.

Ways To Ensure Best Practices for Privacy and Security

To avoid violations, the cloud computing solution chosen must always adhere to HIPAA guidelines. Nevertheless, it’s essential to understand that this doesn’t free the healthcare organization’s personnel from user responsibility. Data owners are still required to follow the HIPAA Security Rule and Privacy Rule. Here are four areas to focus on:

Many violations occur because of human error or incorrect access procedures. With proper training and excellent security safeguards in place, organizations can enjoy the benefits of cloud computing while minimizing any risks.