cloud HIPAA compliance

Many companies who need to be HIPAA compliant are looking for scalable options to meet their growing IT infrastructure needs. Cloud-based solutions offer greater flexibility than traditional in-office solutions, but what do you need to consider before trusting cloud HIPAA compliance?

What to Look For With HIPAA Certified Cloud Services: Who Needs them?

The HIPAA regulations divide businesses into two groups based on how they interact with protected health information (PHI):

Covered Entities (CE): Healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare data clearinghouses fall into this category. These companies use PHI for treatment, billing, and data analysis to support those activities. Covered entities like doctors and insurance companies will create PHI during their everyday activities. 

Business Associates (BA): If a company takes possession of PHI to provide support services to CEs or other BAs, they are considered a business associate. Electronic health record services, managed service providers, third-party billers, and print/mailing firms that send statements to patients are some common examples of BAs. 

BAs must follow HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and the HITECH Omnibus Rule, including breach notification and the protection of PHI in physical or electronic (ePHI) formats.

Organizations must sign Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) before transmitting PHI. The goal is to create an unbroken chain of HIPAA compliance in any place where PHI may be stored or used.

The specific ways each group can interact with PHI differ from company to company, but every organization must share the requirement to be HIPAA compliant.

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Determining Cloud HIPAA Compliance: Fear and Opportunity

By now, most people are aware of cloud-based data and operations. Users have shared access to applications, servers, and services, through internet-based computing that provides data to connected devices on demand. A cloud-based system should enable easier collaboration and data sharing while offering better remote system management tools.

While many businesses were quick to embrace cloud services, concerns regarding HIPAA compliance caused the healthcare industry to lag. Cloud service providers hoping to market to HIPAA-compliant organizations successfully must offer services that meet the same regulatory HIPAA standards as their potential customers.

What to Look For With HIPAA Certified Cloud Services: Saas, PaaS, IaaS

To the uninitiated, cloud computing can seem like a swamp of acronyms and confusing services. Here’s a quick overview and explanation of three of the most common terms.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): The most basic form of cloud computing, SaaS offers centrally stored data accessed by users through a web browser. SaaS providers include services such as Gmail or an interface reached via a web browser. SaaS solutions work well for organizations with smaller IT departments because the vendor performs most of the maintenance and upkeep of the solution.

Health IT functions that are a perfect fit for SaaS solutions include electronic health records (EHRs), medical practice management systems, and health information exchange (HIE).

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): Offerin