Steps to HIPAA Compliance for Cloud-Based Systems

The rapid growth of cloud computing has also led a rapid growth in concerns pertaining to security and privacy in cloud-based infrastructure. Hence, such fears create a huge requirement to understand and implement cloud computing for healthcare organizations, while being compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The benefits offered by cloud-based technology are too good to let go. The agility and flexibility that can be gained by utilizing public, private, and hybrid clouds are quite compelling.  We need cloud based environment that can provide secure and HIPAA compliant solutions.

But, how do you achieve HIPAA compliance with cloud?

HIPAA

Image Source: Mednautix

Follow below steps to better understand how to ensure HIPAA compliance and reduce your risk of a breach.

1.      Create a Privacy Policy

Create a comprehensive privacy policy and make sure your employees are aware of it.

2.      Conduct trainings

Having a privacy policy in place wouldn’t be enough. You would require to make sure that they are implemented as well. For that employees must be given all required trainings during the on-boarding process. You should also require this training for all third-party vendors. Develop online refresher courses in HIPAA security protocols and make it mandatory for all employees and vendors to go through such courses at regular intervals.

3.      Quality Assurance Procedure

Make sure all the quality assurance standards are met and are HIPAA compliant. Conduct surprise drills to find out loopholes, if any.

4.      Regular audits

Perform regular risk assessment programs to check the probability of HIPAA protocol breach and evaluate potential damage in terms of legal, financial and reputational effects on your business. Document the results of your internal audits and changes that need to be made to your policies and procedures. Based on your internal audit results, review audit procedure and update with necessary changes.

5.      Breach Notification SOP

Create a standard operating procedure (SOP) document mentioning details about what steps should be taken in order to avoid a protocol breach. Mention steps to be followed in case a patient data breach occurs.

Most often you would have a cloud service provider who will take care of your wide range of requirements ranging from finding resources, developing apps & hosting them to maintenance of cloud based infrastructure. While the primary responsibility of HIPAA compliance falls on healthcare company, compliance requirements can extend to the cloud service provider as “business associates”.

Are your cloud service providers HIPAA business associates?

Figuring out if your cloud service provider can be considered as HIPAA business associate can be tough. The decision may vary depending on the type of cloud usage. Considering that the cloud provider agency is an active participant, it must also adhere to security requirements, such as including encryption, integrity controls, transmission protections, monitoring, management, employee screening and physical security.

Investing in HIPAA compliance procedures can save you from many hassles. Follow these steps and minimize your risk of being found noncompliant.

Why Healthcare Organizations Need to Turn to Cloud

It is important for every healthcare organization to develop an effective IT roadmap in order to provide best services to customers and patients. Most healthcare payers and providers are moving to cloud based IT infrastructure in order to utilize the benefits that were once considered unimaginable.

But, before moving ahead, let’s check out some industry statistics and research studies.

Healthcare Organizations and Cloud Computing Statistics

Healthcare Organizations and Cloud Computing Statistics

Source: Dell GTAI

According to Dell’s Global Technology Adoption 2015, adoption of cloud technology increased from 25% in 2014 to 41% in 2015 alone.

Spending on cloud computing or in simpler terms – hosted medical services – in global healthcare was $4.2bn in 2004, but this will grow by 20% every year until 2020, reaching $12.6bn.

North America is the biggest consumer of cloud computing services and by 2020 its spending on cloud based solutions will reach $5.7bn.

What kind of data can be moved to Cloud?

Critical healthcare applications can be hosted on cloud platform in order to increase their accessibility and availability. Apart from them, below mentioned hardware, software and data can also be moved to cloud.

  • Email
  • Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI)
  • Picture archiving and communication systems
  • Pharmacy information systems
  • Radiology information systems
  • Laboratory information systems.
  • Disaster recovery systems
  • Databases & Back up data

Why Healthcare Organizations should move to Cloud?

1.      Low Cost

Healthcare organizations can reduce IT costs to a significant extent by moving to the cloud. Cloud based software require lesser resources for development and testing. This implies fewer resources for maintenance and more robust solutions at a lesser cost. It is believed that over a period of 10 years, cloud based applications cost 50% lesser than traditional in-house hosted applications.

2.      More Accessibility

It is important that healthcare data is available to doctors as quickly as possible so that they can diagnose and analyze the situation of patient soon and take the right steps to improve the condition. Cloud computing improves web performance for users in remote locations as well without having to build out additional data centers.

3.      Higher Flexibility

Cloud based platform allows organizations to scale up or down based on their needs. With conventional on-premise hosted solutions, it can be tough to align their physical infrastructure quickly to varying demands. Migrating to cloud can help to deploy scalable IT infrastructure that can adjust itself as per the requirements, making sure that the resources are always available when required.

4.      Improved Efficiency

Moving to cloud also helps to avoid money being spent on infrastructure to be under-utilized. With early access to wide range of data, businesses can gather valuable insights about the performance of systems and plan their future strategy accordingly. Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and doctors can focus on their core objective – giving the best possible treatment and service to patient – while the cloud service providers take care of their IT needs.

5.      More Reliability

Cloud based software remains available 24*7 from anywhere to any authorized personnel having an internet connection. Apart from that, it is easier to recover from loss due to natural disasters because of its distributed architecture.

Conclusion

The cloud’s resiliency and high availability make it a cost-effective alternative to on-site hosted solutions. However, security has been a major barrier to cloud adoption in many verticals. It’s especially critical in healthcare industry which is regulated by HIPAA and HITECH Acts and plays a major role in such organizations’ decisions to move their data into a public cloud app.