Factors that Cloud Service Providers Need to Address for Maintaining HIPAA Compliance

We are continually reminded that healthcare and insurance companies must adhere to rigorous legislation to protect their customers’ data privacy. The advent of cutting-edge cloud technology services and the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act have transformed the healthcare industry. The HITECH Act has made it mandatory for healthcare providers to meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s guidelines (HIPAA). As the number of health institutions using cloud services has risen, healthcare IT executives are faced with the daunting task of adhering to HIPAA standards to reduce costs and simplify infrastructure.

When dealing with cloud service providers, IT executives face two forms of challenges when it comes to complying with HIPAA regulations:

  • Online managed cloud service providers are entirely responsible for data security, disaster recovery planning, system replication, and all other HIPAA-required security activities.
  • Since their customers are still responsible for some of the data security problems, unmanaged cloud service providers are not required to meet all of HIPAA’s criteria.
  • Identifying systems that need to meet HIPAA standards — It’s crucial for service providers to be able to recognize which systems must meet HIPAA’s requirements. First, healthcare organizations must classify all programs that handle Protected Health Information (PHI). This assists them in deciding which systems need to be reviewed so that HIPAA privacy and security regulations can be met.

Factors that Cloud Service Providers need to Ensure:

Business Associate Agreement (BAA) — Signing the Business Associates Agreement is the first step in ensuring that healthcare and insurance companies’ programs are HIPAA-compliant (BAA). The fact that it will comply with HIPAA specifications to protect the privacy and protection of PHI is defined by signing a BAA. It also provides an idea of what the supplier could do for the covered organization.

The location of the Data Center — Another aspect of HIPPA compliance is the cloud service provider’s ability to demonstrate where the users’ data is located at any given time. This is critical in the event of an audit, as the provider will be expected to record the position of all of their clients’ data.

Data Access Controls and Regulations — The cloud provider should be able to display a range of systems and data access controls. During an audit, they may be needed to demonstrate how user access to sensitive data is both regulated and consistent— access to the data center, facility facilities, and systems, as well as customer data, is limited to approved staff.

Data Encryption in Flight and at Rest — Data encryption is one of the essential elements that cloud service providers must ensure in order to keep data secure and HIPAA compliant. Cloud service providers must encrypt data in transit, at rest, and during transmission using industry-standard SSL encryption. Apart from ensuring compliance with the Service Level Agreement, service providers must be able to constantly track system capacity (SLA). They’re also expected to verify data in real-time to ensure that it’s complete and accurate.

Ongoing Auditing and Reporting — In order to maintain HIPAA compliance, a cloud service provider must also show that the organization performs regular log and security checks to ensure that the data, systems, and environments are safe. Monthly engineering evaluations, third-party assessments, and access reports are all examples of these reviews.

Employee Access Controls — As practices evolve over time, service providers must also meet the requirements of performing comprehensive background checks on staff who have access to client data, as well as conducting frequent security assessments. This is a critical factor because it aids in the prevention of illegal PHI use.

The cloud service providers will maintain HIPAA compliance by adhering to the above factors. However, in an age where health policies and legislation are continually evolving, the challenge of simply maintaining enforcement does not stop here. Cloud service providers must keep an eye out because it is not just their duty to ensure HIPAA compliance but also to prevent future data breaches.

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