Healthcare organizations have numerous things to think about, but making sure they stay HIPAA-compliant is at the top of their list of priorities. And in this technological age, most hospitals and other healthcare facilities use servers to store, process, and transmit patient information.
If your health-related business does this, it is considered a Business Associate under HIPAA. Therefore, the server you use as well as all of its elements need to be fully HIPAA-compliant.
There are a number of HIPAA-compliant server requirements that you should meet, and this article lists all of them. It also explains other concepts related to this topic.
What Is HIPAA Compliant Hosting?
HIPAA-compliant hosting is a special type of web hosting solution that is used only by healthcare organizations. This solution has to meet and even exceed all of the safeguards that are mandated by the HIPAA regulations from 1996. This includes administrative, physical, and technical safeguards.
Among these regulations is also the subsequent Security Rule and Privacy Rule amendments of 2003 which are related to all health care providers that conduct some or all of their health care transactions electronically.
All managed service providers, covered entities, as well as relevant third parties are required to follow these regulations and keep all patient data safe.
HIPAA Compliant Server Requirements
Without further ado, let’s go through all HIPAA compliant server requirements:
Your hosting environment needs to fully implement firewalls. A perimeter firewall is just a starting point, you also need to have firewalls on the servers behind the main firewall. Moreover, you should use firewall technology that is system-wide for your HIPAA server.
A VPN makes sure that your private connection to the internet stays private. Nowadays, VPNs are necessary for a safe browsing experience. Just remember that not all VPNs are the same, so you need to do research to find the best option.
Every person who has access to the server has to use multifactor authentication. This will either send them a code via an app or an SMS that they’ll have to type in to gain access.
Private hosted environment
If your platform isn’t privately hosted, it will be able to share its resources with other entities. On the other hand, a private environment ensures all information stays safe and secure.
A secure socket layer, better known as an SSL certificate, needs to be established in all domains and subdomains of your website that have access to sensitive healthcare information. Every part of your website that requires login credentials needs to have an SSL certificate.
SOC 2 Type 2 and SOC 3 Type 2 certifications
You need to work with a service provider whose infrastructure has received certifications from the SOC 2 and SOC 3 reports. These reports require an audit that is based on the AICPA guidelines, including the operating effectiveness of controls.
Business Associate Agreement (BAA)
If you hire any third party to assist you with handling ePHI, you need to sign a BAA. This will ensure that both businesses are seriously taking their responsibilities of being HIPAA-compliant.
Do I Need HIPAA Compliant Servers?
If you’re a healthcare organization that stores protected health information that can be used to identify a patient, you absolutely do need HIPAA-compliant servers. If you’re not sure if you need them, consult a legal advisor. One of the instances where the rules can vary is if the data is anonymized.
There are many benefits to having a HIPAA-compliant service. It offers many advantages and ensures that all of the technical, administrative, and physical safeguards of HIPAA are in place. As long as you’re maintaining proper safeguards, you can be sure that compliance is guaranteed.
This way, not only will you overcome the challenges of meeting compliance regulations, but you’ll also improve patient care, enhance cybersecurity, have backups and disaster recovery, and much more.
How to Run a HIPAA Compliant Server?
There are multiple strict guidelines you need to follow to meet HIPAA compliant server requirements:
- Encrypt all of your data while it’s in transit and at rest.
- Make sure there are no data breaches with file scanners, network scanners, and anti-malware software.
- Close any ports you aren’t using and harden the operating system.
- Regularly perform vulnerability scans to make sure you’re not missing any gaps in security.
- Insist on multi-factor authentication and unique user authentication.
- Perform fully encrypted server backups regularly.
- Assign user roles and privileges to the appropriate employees.
- Maintain audit logs.
How to Find HIPAA Compliant Hosting
Managed hosting providers can’t advertise HIPAA compliance unless they’re truly compliant. However, it varies from provider to provider what parts of a HIPAA audit they’ll provide to ensure you’re HIPAA-compliant. Even though some vendors claim they’re compliant, you can never be absolutely sure of those claims.
The only way you can be sure that you found the perfect hosting provider is to demand a solid BAA and have an audit performed. Because while some providers claim they’re compliant, they might be talking about a specific part of their service. That’s why an audit is always necessary.
If your healthcare organization isn’t 100% HIPAA-compliant, not only will you lose the trust of your patients and their business, but you’ll also have to pay some hefty fines. So, if you use a server to store all patient information, you need to follow all HIPAA-compliant server requirements.
Also, in case you're collecting PHI on your server, you should definitely consider online forms that are HIPAA-approved.