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Selecting a HIPAA Compliant Cloud

Considering selecting a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) compliant cloud but don’t have the slightest clue about how to get started? Trust us, it’s much easier than you think. Let’s take a closer look at what requirements you need to consider when selecting the HIPAA cloud service that’s right for you.

First Things First — What Is A HIPAA Compliant Cloud?


Due to the recent growth of public cloud platforms and SaaS solutions, regulated industries, including the healthcare industry, have begun looking to cloud services and public cloud platforms as a means of simplifying business operations.

Simply put, cloud computing allows an organization to quickly and efficiently deploy services, scale both applications and workloads, and obtain accurate pricing information. Cloud service providers now feature HIPAA supported services, allowing you to easily build and manage a HIPAA security program, without having to rely on on-premise servers or data center experts.

Security and compliance are paramount for all businesses, organizations, and industries that build HIPAA applications and manage protected health information (PHI).

Cloud Solutions — Benefits

It is important to understand that when selecting a HIPAA compliant cloud provider, you must adhere to and maintain all of the physical, technical, and administrative safeguards set in place and required by HIPAA. Once a cloud provider is selected, an organization can benefit from the already established security programs included with cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), and other public cloud platforms. Other benefits include:

  • Security Certifications: Often, cloud platforms have achieved multiple security certifications that an enterprise can then utilize to launch their security programs.
  • Simple Scalability: Pay only for the services you require and scale-out to larger services only when it’s time to scale-up.
  • ManyCloud Services: Utilize hundreds of managed services to build solutions fast and efficiently.
  • Flexibility: With a public cloud platform, an organization can build applications across multitudes of technologies.

Cloud Services — Model Types

Several types of cloud service models are available to customers, varying in terms of billing and services deployment. It is not uncommon for a business to utilize a mixture of the following cloud services in order to accomplish specific objectives that may require multiple services. Popular cloud service models are as follows:

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)

Hosted by a SaaS company, SaaS solutions can be paid for or rented, on a monthly or yearly basis to fulfill specific business needs as they arise.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Designed to provide organizations with a specific cloud or application-hosting environment to manage applications, these platforms provide consumers with the flexibility needed to quickly develop applications and cost-effectively, scale-up workloads.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

These models provide storage, computing, and networking capabilities for building applications and storing multitudes of production data. IaaS services are also valued for their customization abilities, allowing users to meet specific application needs.

What Determines If a Cloud Solution Is HIPAA Compliant?

As was briefly mentioned above, in order for a cloud solution to be classified as HIPAA compliant, certain security standards must be met, and the cloud service provider must adhere to specific compliance safeguards.

First, it is mandatory that all cloud solutions complete a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) — entered into by both the cloud provider and the covered organization —, dictating how security standards are to be defined by both parties.

Simply entering into a BAA with a cloud platform, is not enough in order for an organization to be considered HIPAA compliant, staff access to protected health information must be restricted and healthcare organizations must have a HIPAA security program in place, in line with the HIPAA administrative and technical standards.

Interested In Building HIPAA Compliant Applications? Make Sure to Follow These Five Steps

If your organization aims to enlist the services of a public cloud platform to build HIPAA compliant applications, the following HIPAA requirements must be met and managed to achieve HIPAA cloud compliance. The following are a set of five steps, commonly taken by building teams in order to achieve HIPAA compliance.

1. Signa business associates agreement (BAA):

Any organization that deals with protected health information (PHI) needs to discuss and sign a BAA with all cloud vendors that store, process, or transfer PHI. In short, teams building applications and services should have a BAA in place with cloud service platforms that store PHI.

2. Stick to the services agreed upon in the BAA regarding PHI

Besides listing the cloud services that may be used to build HIPAA compliant solutions, a BAA agreement also states the security responsibilities that must be met. Organizations need to be certain that they are only storing PHI data in cloud services that were covered in the BAA.

3. Be sure that administrative policies and safeguards are implemented

As we mentioned above, simply signing a BAA does not automatically ensure that an organization is deemed HIPAA compliant. In order to obtain a compliant status, a HIPAA security program — including administrative policies and procedures — must be put in place. These policies should be simple and straightforward, providing the necessary steps covering everything from risk assessment and disaster recovery to employee training and log review.

4. Be sure to implement all necessary security controls

Although cloud computing platforms provide many necessary physical safeguards and security options, nevertheless, it is up to the organization to ensure that all proper technical controls are implemented across all cloud services to address encryption, audit logging, firewall/networking, intrusion detection, vulnerability scanning, etc.

5. Be sure to review the compliance standards periodically

Periodic review is necessary to ensure standards remain consistent with HIPAA requirements. Teams need to review administrative policies periodically to ensure security protocols are implemented across cloud services and remain up to date.

Conclusion

For anymore questions surrounding the selection of a HIPAA compliant cloud, head on over to Dash ComplyOps, and request a demo. Dash deploys to your cloud environment, and assists teams by providing compliance management solutions including administrative policies, cloud security controls, and policy enforcement, just to name a few.

Featuring an in-house team of compliance and cloud experts, Dash provides HIPAA cloud solutions, enabling organizations to comfortably configure and manage HIPAA in Amazon Web Services — the market-leading, cloud platform.

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