HIPAA violations cost healthcare organizations over $28 million in 2018. Anthem, one of the largest health insurance companies in the U.S., was forced to settle for a whopping $16 million following a record-breaking health data breach. With so much at stake, it’s easy to see why HIPAA compliance is so important.
Selecting the right web hosting service is crucial for HIPAA compliance. Doing so will help organizations protect themselves from costly fines and legal nightmares. Conversely, companies that aren’t conscientious with their web hosting face a serious risk of HIPAA infringement.
Let’s take a look at what HIPAA-compliant hosting entails.
What is HIPAA-compliant hosting?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996.The bill created regulations to ensure the confidentiality of patients’ protected health information (PHI). With HIPAA in place, healthcare organizations must adhere to strict rules regarding the storage, processing, and transmission of electronic protected health information (ePHI).
Since web hosting involves the storage and handling of electronic data, it naturally falls under the umbrella of HIPAA compliance. To be compliant, a web hosting company must
- Limit access to facilities (authorized personnel only)
- Uphold policies regarding access to electronic media and workstations
- Prevent access to ePHI with technical, physical, and administrative safeguards
- Maintain records of software and hardware activity
- Have a disaster recovery plan and adequate network security
When it comes to HIPAA compliance, not all web hosting companies are created equal. Here are the six best HIPAA-compliant hosting services for your business:
Amazon Web Services
Liquid Web offers HIPAA-compliant hosting designed specifically for healthcare. Their HIPAA hosting solution includes fully managed servers, locked server cabinets, business associate agreements, and extensive safeguards.
Liquid Web has undergone a third-party audit to confirm that they live up to their HIPAA compliance claims. The company offers both single-server and multiple-server plans as well as custom solutions.
Liquid Web takes pride in its customer service, with a 59-second support guarantee, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Rackspace is another web hosting company that emphasizes healthcare compliance. Their cloud hosting service has received HITRUST CSF certification (a security framework tailored to compliance-sensitive organizations).
Their team offers guidance through the entire process, including customized design, implementation, and review. Once you’re up and running, Rackspace provides monitoring, network administration, and database management.
Like Liquid Web, Rackspace strives for top-tier customer support. They’ve dubbed their philosophy “Fanatical Support®,” and it has been one of their primary company values since 1999.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most popular options on the market, with clients including Philips, Siemens, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
Businesses can use AWS’s cloud environment to store, maintain, and transmit sensitive PHI data. AWS’s risk management program conforms with FedRAMP and NIST 800-53 (security standards aligned with HIPAA).
The cloud network’s scalability and reliability are also best in class. However, the system can be complicated, and its customer support services aren’t very robust. For this reason, some choose to partner with a managed AWS provider like CloudWays.
Microsoft Azure is a diverse cloud solution that can serve as a platform for SaaS (software-as-a-service), IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service), and PaaS (platform as a service). Their immense catalog is composed of more than 600 services, including data management, storage, and web hosting.
Azure has risen in the web hosting space to become a formidable competitor to AWS and can help organizations achieve their HIPAA compliance needs. Microsoft’s cloud services are covered by FedRAMP assessments, and their services under the business associate agreement have received the ISO/IEC 27001 certification from independent auditors.
Microsoft has also developed a HIPAA/HITRUST Blueprint to aid healthcare companies in deployment and HIPAA compliance.
Atlantic.net is a seasoned veteran in the web hosting world. Since 1994, they’ve specialized in secure, compliance-oriented hosting and managed services — and they’ve earned a solid reputation in the process.
Atlantic holds both SOC 2 Type II and SOC 3 Type II certifications and has been independently audited to ensure compliance and security. Their solutions address all of the technical considerations for HIPAA, including firewalls, multifactor authentication, offsite backups, and encrypted VPNs.
Customers can choose either managed or unmanaged hosting solutions, and both options are backed by a 100-percent uptime guarantee.
HIPAA Vault is the low-cost leader of HIPAA compliant cloud solutions, enabling healthcare providers, business organizations, and government agencies to secure their protected health information from data breaches, threats, and security vulnerabilities.
At the core of HIPAA Vault’s business is the managed solutions architecture that is included with every product and service. Advanced security measures are needed to ensure HIPAA compliance, and customers trust HIPAA Vault to mitigate risk, actively monitor and protect their infrastructure, and ensure that systems stay online at all times. HIPAA Vault’s Managed Services includes less-than-15 minute response times for critical alerts, and 90% first call resolution.
In addition, HIPAA Vault is able to provide agile private, hybrid, and public FedRAMP compliant cloud, and participates in SBA 8(a), HUBZone, GSA, and DBE programs.
Compliant platforms still require diligence
It’s crucial to recognize that buying these services is not a guarantee of HIPAA compliance. Safe tools and solutions can still be misused and result in a violation. Think of it like driving a car. You can buy a car with stellar crash test ratings and features like blind spot detection to maximize your safety. However, if you handle the car improperly, you can still cause an accident.
One of the biggest risks with hosting services is misconfiguring the settings. Take Amazon Web Services. “AWS misconfigurations are very common. So much so, that Amazon recently emailed users who had potentially misconfigured their S3 buckets to warn them that data could be accessed by anyone.” —HIPAA Journal
By default, AWS is secure, but certain changes to the settings can violate HIPAA. That’s why it’s important to be as careful and as diligent as possible. Know the best practices and proper configurations of the platform you are using. If you’re unsure, bring in an expert to advise you.
When HIPAA is involved, you can’t be too cautious. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.