A Complete Guide to HIPAA Compliant Web Hosting [That Will Keep You Safe from Costly Penalties]
Having your own website is a great venture; it opens up a door to a vast world. It can be likened to how a hero awakened to their superpowers - thrilling.
It gives you the power to reach out to more clients. In effect, you are making your target profit larger.
Just like heroes who gained power, it comes with great burden. Yes, owning a website requires you to follow a set of rules. One misstep, and you may face lawsuits and costly penalties.
One of which is HIPAA.
You may be asking yourself right now: What is HIPAA? Does my website need to be HIPAA compliant?
Fret not! After reading this article, you’ll know every detail you need about HIPAA, its scope, and the needs for compliance.
Related: What is Cloud Web Hosting?
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The bill passed in 1996 and says that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to create a set of guiding rules to protect health and medical records since there was none at that time.
HIPAA was a needed bill to create at that time. Because health care systems continue to adopt newer technology. Health care records became more dependent on electronic information systems. In effect, medical records and patients' data that are stored and handled became more unsafe.
After the mandate by HIPAA, the Health and Human Services created two sets of rules and scopes: HIPAA Privacy Rule and HIPAA Security Rule.
Scope of Privacy and Security Rule
HIPAA Privacy Rule is a set of guidelines to protect health data. It has a clear set of needed guidelines that need to be followed to prevent a data breach. The patient’s rights to his health records and data are also clearly stated in the Privacy Rule.
HIPAA Security Rule, on the other hand, is a set of guidelines that are focused on keeping electronic health information (e-PHI) safe. It has a clear set of rules that must be followed about data storage and the handling of electronically protected medical information.
Since we will be dealing with web hosting services that are HIPAA compliant, we will be mostly talking about the HIPAA Security Rule.
Does my website need to be HIPAA compliant?
As a rule of thumb, if your website handles any medical record or data, then you need to be HIPAA compliant. To be a little more specific, if you fall into any of the mentioned below, then you need to be HIPAA compliant:
- Health plan and health insurance providers
- Healthcare clearinghouses
- Healthcare providers
- Business partners that are in contract with and hosting healthcare companies
If you’re not in the list above, but you still want to be very sure, you can use the tool linked here. It’s a tool endorsed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). So you can be sure that it’s accurate and reliable.
But if you’re one of the covered subjects, you’ll need to read on to be sure that you are HIPAA compliant. We will talk about the rules set by the Health and Human Services (HHS) in dealing with electronic protected health information (e-PHI).
HIPAA Security Rule
As a covered subject of HIPAA, you may be worried and asking yourself: What does the law expect of me? What should I do?
These questions are answered by the three general rules that the Health and Human Services (HHS) has created in the HIPAA Security Rule. I’ve listed below the written rules that you can find in Section 1173 of HIPAA that you always need to keep in mind:
- You must at all times ensure the privacy and integrity of all electronic protected health information (e-PHI). All data must be available at all times.
- You must study and pinpoint what are the threats and illegal disclosures on all electronic protected health information (e-PHI) and create safety measures to protect and safeguard all the health data.
- You must ensure compliance [to the set rules by HHS] of your workforce.
On the first general rule, it is very clear that you, as a covered entity, need a very solid and secure network in order to be compliant. You’ll need things like data encryption, firewalls, and other security measures in order to achieve this.
On the second general rule, you, as a covered subject, need to conduct risk study. You’ll need a clear set of action plans to each found risk during the study.
And from the last rule on the list, you’ll need to create and document action plans and company policies. Of course, if there are documents, there will be audits on a regular basis as well. You’ll need to be ready for that.
These general rules act as a tenet or guides of what to do. But you may think that keeping up with all these rules is time-consuming. Is there any shortcut?
Yes, there is!
The solution is web hosting that is HIPAA compliant.
Keep reading because we will talk about HIPAA compliant hosting further below.
Compliance with HIPAA requires a thorough plan and spending resources. You need to spend time, money, and workforce to ensure that you’ve completely complied with every requirement.
The Health and Human Services (HHS) has the power to check your company’s HIPAA compliance. If found that you’ve failed to comply with any part of the guideline, you’ll be possibly faced with a penalty of $100 to $50,000 per offense.
But that’s not the worst that can happen. In a proven case that you’ve neglected willfully in complying with HIPAA Rules, you may face a penalty of $1,500,000 in a year.
So as a website owner it’s better for you to spend resources on compliance rather than face possible law problems in the future.
If you’re a covered subject and want to check if your web hosting providers are compliant or if you are still searching for a HIPAA compliant hosting provider, we have created a checklist that you can use to check for compliance.
HIPAA Compliance Checklist Guide
If you are all positive on the checklist below, then you may be HIPAA compliant.
- Hosting provider has clear rules and protocols on the security and access to its hardware and facilities (e.g., servers, server rooms, computers) that contain e-PHI. All of which are strictly followed.
- Hosting provider has a clear and regular intensive training based on HIPAA compliance for all its employees.
- Hosting provider has a clear and complete written data handling protocol.
- Hosting provider has a unique user ID and passwords for access on all of its physical buildings and equipment and electronic networks.
- Hosting provider has security measures that documents and creates logs of all users that access all of their physical and electronic buildings or network.
- Hosting provider has all of its stored electronic data available at all times with many modes of access.
- Hosting provider has disaster recovery plans.
- Hosting provider has signed a Business Associate Agreement with you. This is very vital since this Business Associate Agreement will protect you from being liable to any security breaches.
All of the stated needs in the checklist above need a complete record and document keeping.
Self-audits may overlook some vital aspects of your compliance with HIPAA. So it’s best if you hire a third-party audit group that is focused on HIPAA compliance. Or you can just hire a HIPAA compliant hosting provider.
We will dive further into that as we discuss more on what reliable HIPAA compliant companies have to offer.
What do reliable HIPAA compliant hosting companies provide?
To comply with the HIPAA rules on electronic data security and privacy, HIPAA compliant hosting provider has these features on the services they offer:
- A powerful firewall. Dedicated to protecting all the data. It acts as a gatekeeper that checks if users that want to access your database are authorized.
- An encrypted virtual private network that ensures end to end transfer of data without data theft. Only authorized end users are able to decrypt the data. Most companies use SSL as a means of encryption, and you’ll receive a certificate for this. Other providers use multiple encryption protocols.
- Discreet offsite backups that store and syncs data with your current data. This is mainly used for disaster recovery.
- An increased data protection through a multifactor access check. Aside from your password, you need another code that will be instantly and randomly generated as means of access. An example of this is a one-time-password (OTP) you receive through your phone number when you are logging into your bank account.
- A privately hosted environment or server. It means that you won’t be sharing a server with other entities.
- A Business Associate Agreement is needed for HIPAA compliance.
List of 3 awesome HIPPA certified companies
There are many awesome web hosting companies that are HIPAA compliant. We created a shortlist below of providers who has an excellent record and great offerings.
- Atlantic.net – One of the prominent HIPAA hosting solutions due to their flexible hosting plans. All their HIPAA hosting solutions are customizable. Whether its compliant cloud hosting, dedicated hosting, data storage, or WordPress hosting you’re looking for, they’ve got it all.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) – Yes, you’ve read it right. Amazon is not only an online shopping website. Amazon is also a popular choice for companies that are looking for HIPAA compliant cloud hosting services following HIPAA. AWS HIPAA hosting is considered as the best when it comes to compliant cloud hosting.
- Liquid Web – One of the popular hosting companies due to its reliability and high server speeds. They offer high-performance compliant web hosting and also compliant cloud solutions. One of the reasons for its popularity and great feedback lies in its promise of a 100 percent network uptime guarantee.
Be sure to check out our Free The Best Free Web Hosting for Nonprofits in 2021
Compliance with HIPAA can be tedious. But with the right tools and the right hosting solution, you’ll have one less burden off your mind and focus on expanding your market on the internet.
Go on, take that first step. Subscribe to one of the compliant hosting solutions we’ve recommended.
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