What Are HIPAA Software Requirements?

Healthcare organizations generally use a variety of software tools to help them efficiently run their businesses. While there are many options for organizations to choose from when selecting which software services are right for their business, healthcare businesses must consider HIPAA. This is because when a healthcare business uses a software service to create, store, transmit, or receive protected health information (PHI), they must ensure that the service they use is HIPAA compliant. So how can you make sure that your software is HIPAA compliant so that you can work with healthcare clients? HIPAA software requirements dictate minimum standards that must be met to be considered HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA Software Security Requirements

Whether you are developing software, an app, or both, the security requirements are the same. These security requirements, referred to as safeguards, must ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI).

End-to-End Encryption

Software developers must ensure that all ePHI is encrypted, included when it’s being sent, received, or stored. Encryption must follow SSL and HTTPS protocols to protect pages, including login pages, that collect or display ePHI. 

HIPAA Software Requirements

While many developers think about the security of their software itself, cloud storage security is often overlooked. According to a recent study conducted by McAfee, 2020 saw a 630% increase in cyberattacks targeting cloud service providers. If you are using a public cloud or a private cloud to store ePHI, it must allow configuration of your SSL to prevent unauthorized cloud data access.

Data Backup

HIPAA requires exact copies of ePHI to be stored in an offsite data storage facility. This is to ensure that ePHI is always available in situations where a natural disaster, accident, or hacking incident compromises ePHI stored onsite.

User Authentication, Access Management, and Audit Logs

As part of HIPAA software requirements, ePHI access must be limited to the minimum necessary to perform a job function. Under the minimum necessary standard, only employees that require access to ePHI should be granted access. As such, software platforms must enable each of an organization’s employees to be given unique login credentials to access the platform. Through unique login credentials, administrators can implement access controls to designate different access levels for each employee dependent on their job function. These unique login credentials also enable ePHI access to be tracked and recorded through audit logs. By keeping audit logs impermissible access to ePHI can be detected quickly.

Automatic Logoff

To prevent unauthorized access to ePHI, it is important that software platforms enable automatic logoff procedures after a period of inactivity. Administrators should be able to choose appropriate automatic logoff times. For instance, software that is accessed from a front desk computer of a doctor’s office would need to have a shorter automatic logoff time than on a computer in a room protected by locks.

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HIPAA Software Requirements and Administrative Considerations

As a software provider with healthcare clients, you are considered a business associate. As a business associate, in addition to building security controls into your software, there are administrative considerations to take into account.

Signing Business Associate Agreements

One of the most important factors that define a HIPAA compliant software provider is the willingness to sign a business associate agreement (BAA). Even the most secure software platform cannot be considered HIPAA compliant if they don’t sign BAAs with their healthcare clients. 

A BAA is a legal agreement between a healthcare organization and their business associate that requ