If you work in the healthcare industry, you know how important confidentiality is. Here’s why you could benefit from HIPAA compliant hosting.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996. It’s legislation that ensures the data privacy of all medical information in the United States. Namely, it provides protection to patients so they can trust that healthcare providers, insurers, and other entities handle their medical data responsibly.

But in recent years, HIPAA has become a hot topic because of high-profile data breaches. Between 2009 and 2017, there were 2,181 healthcare data breaches. More than 176 million healthcare records were exposed.

The security aspect of the law is much more pronounced now that most parties are storing data electronically.

If you operate a healthcare business and handle sensitive medical data, HIPAA applies to you. Not only do you need to keep patient information private, but you must also keep it secure.

To achieve HIPAA compliance, you need HIPAA compliant hosting for your data entry environment and any stored data. Read on to learn why you need HIPAA compliant web hosting.

Who is Covered by HIPAA?

Before HIPAA was enacted, there were no standards for securing medical records. Since 1996, the law has been strengthened and expanded to cover any entity that handles medical information. This includes businesses that have electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

There are two types of organizations mentioned in the HIPAA regulation:

  • Covered Entities (CE)
  • Business Associates (BA)

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the following entities are covered under HIPAA:

Health Plans

Under HIPAA, the term “Health Plans” refers to the following:

  • Health insurance companies
  • HMOs (health maintenance organizations)
  • Employer-sponsored healthcare plans
  • Government healthcare programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and military healthcare programs)

If these entities are compliant, patient data is secured when it is transferred from health plan providers to other parties.

Healthcare Clearinghouses

Clearinghouses are companies that serve as intermediaries between healthcare providers and insurance providers. Clearinghouses forward claims, check claims for errors and verify that claims are compatible with applicable software.

Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers include the following:

  • Clinics
  • Psychologists
  • Dentists
  • Hospitals
  • Doctors
  • Chiropractors
  • Nursing Homes
  • Pharmacies
  • Rehabilitation Centers

Any location that receives and treats patients, requiring the use of medical data, is subject to HIPAA.

Healthcare Business Associates

If any of the above entities engage with a third-party business to carry out healthcare activities, that business is also covered under HIPAA. They are considered Business Associates (BA). There must be a written contract stating what the business does and that it will comply with HIPAA.

Examples of a business associate could include:

  • Healthcare Consultancies
  • Outsourced Administrators
  • Outsourced Accountants
  • Third-Party Data Storage Companies
  • Transcription Services
  • Legal Services
  • Subcontractors of Business Associates

Any company that receives or handles protected health information (PHI) is covered under HIPAA.

If your company falls under any of these categories, you must take precautions and house any health data on a HIPAA compliant server. You must also take steps to secure that data when it is being entered and when it is in transit.

What Are the Rules of HIPAA?

A great deal has changed since 1996, especially in terms of data collection and storage. Lawmakers have revised and made additions to HIPAA since it passed. Today, HIPAA has four basic rules:

The HIPAA Privacy Rule

This rule sets standards for the integrity, privacy, and availability of protected health information. Basic safeguards must be put in place to keep this information private. Additionally, this rule states that patients have a right to their medical records.

The HIPAA Security Rule

This rule sets standards for the secure collection, storage, and transmission of protected health information. Through a series of Technical, Physical, and Administrative safeguards, Covered Entities and Business Associates must take appropriate steps to keep health data secure.

To comply with this rule, you must implement HIPAA hosting and certifiable data protection procedures.

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule

This rule sets timelines for when entities and businesses must notify patients and authorities of a data breach. The timelines are different depending on the severity of the breach.

The HIPAA Omnibus Rule

The Omnibus Rule went into effect in 2013 and made changes to how HIPAA regulates Business Associates. This is the rule that places a regulatory obligation upon BAs to become HIPAA compliant. It also placed stricter rules on agreements between Covered Entities and Business Associates.

What Happens if You Violate HIPAA?

If you violate HIPAA, the Covered Entity you contract with must take steps to end the violation. This could result in the termination of your contract. This, however, is the least damaging outcome of a HIPAA violation.

If you are a licensed company and you break HIPAA Rules, you could face sanctions from professional boards. This could make it difficult for you to continue to do business.

The government may also apply civil or criminal penalties for HIPAA violations. These vary and are dependent upon the severity of the violation, among other circumstances.

Civil Penalties

A civil violation of HIPAA occurs when a business or individual is aware that HIPAA is being violated or should be aware given due diligence. Civil violations begin with a fine of $100 per infraction. The fine can rise to $25,000 for multiple infractions, however.

If a violation is corrected within 30 days, there is no penalty.

Criminal Penalties

The criminal penalties for HIPAA violations are tiered. They are dependent upon the severity of the crime. Willful violations of the law result in a fine of $50,000. However, the maximum fine is $250,000.

If there were victims of the crime, they may be owed additional restitution. There is also the possibility of prison time under the following circumstances:

  • Negligence: Up to 1 year
  • Obtaining protected health information under false pretenses: Five years maximum
  • Violation with malicious intent: Up to 10 years

Get HIPAA Compliant Hosting

To acquire HIPAA compliant hosting, you need to store medical data in a secure environment. For example, a data center with next-generation security and the right certifications could be HIPAA compliant. However, you also need to have accurate data captures solutions in place to minimize human error.

A good start is to do a HIPAA audit. You can conduct this audit internally or rely on an outsourced provider. Regardless, if your company provides data capture solutions or other services to the healthcare industry, you can’t afford to rely on legacy data entry and data capture methods.

Contact us today to get HIPAA compliant data management and data processing services.