Healthcare is one industry that is being revolutionized by cloud technology. In many ways, it is a data-driven field that relies on being able to gather, track, and share patient information in order to provide better care. The sensitive nature of personal medical information led to the creation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is designed to continue to develop regulations that protect patient privacy and security. As more medical facilities move their services to the cloud, they need to not only be aware of HIPAA cloud compliance regulations but also continually test and update resources in the cloud in order to meet security standards. Here is a closer look at what you need to know about making sure that your cloud implementation is compliant with HIPAA rules and regulations.
A Brief History of HIPAA
HIPAA was created in direct response to emerging technologies. At the time, it was becoming clear that electronic records were the future and that the entire industry would be moving away from relying on paper documents. Ultimately, this allowed physicians, health insurance companies, and other providers to operate more efficiently and improve patient care, but it also gave rise to concerns about the security of electronic systems. Prior to HIPAA, there were no industry standards for ways to handle these concerns, which also meant there weren’t any real consequences in the event of security breaches.
HIPAA created national standards and requires that all relevant agencies comply with the act’s requirements. If a provider is found to be in violation of the act, they can be subject to fines. The amount will vary according to the severity of the violation and the level of negligence involved. For this reason (and others), it is important for healthcare companies to do their absolute best to comply with national standards.
The regulations require providers to practice due diligence while still allowing some leeway. These are the general rules that must be followed:
1. Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all e-PHI they create, receive, maintain or transmit;
2. Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information;
3. Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures; and
4. Ensure compliance by their workforce.
Any cloud network should work to support these goals and ensure compliance in order to avoid fines and protect patients’ information.
The Importance of Scalability and Flexibility
The HIPAA security rules are meant to be scalable and flexible and take into account that providers can range from small family practices to national insurance providers. This gives companies the freedom to assess their own needs and implement solutions that are specific to their business models. Each provider is tasked with understanding the size and complexity of their network, what kind of hardware and software they will need, and how much they will have to spend on security. So, while there are general requirements, how these requirements are met will vary among organizations.
Here is a brief look at what areas organizations are required to address:
- Risk analysis. This includes understanding risk levels and potential impacts and creating documentation that outlines security measures that the logic behind them.
- Administrative safeguards. There needs to be clear leadership and accountability when it comes to security. This can mean appointing a security officer, who will be in charge of making sure that the rest of the workforce is properly trained in security best practices.
- Physical security precautions. Every facility is responsible for limiting physical access to electronics and making sure that only authorized personnel are able to use a workstation. This includes properly disposing of old equipment.
- Technical safeguards. This is where cloud security and compliance really comes into play. Providers need to limit electronic access, conduct regular audits, protect the integrity of documents and networks, and ensure the security of information that is transmitted electronically.
Complying with these standards, even if they are relatively flexible, can feel overwhelming, but there are tools available that can help streamline compliance and infrastructure validation. Prancer is the pioneer of cloud validation that uses pre and post-deployment tools to ensure continuous compliance across multiple cloud providers. Those who are required to follow HIPAA regulations can use prancer to stay compliant while still being able to deploy new resources and applications to the cloud.
If you have more questions about HIPAA cloud compliance requirements or how prancer can help your healthcare facility achieve and maintain compliance, contact us today to learn more.