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Cloud Computing and HIPAA: Key Facts You Need to Know Now

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The internet has revolutionized the way we live and work. We can now access information and applications from anywhere in the world, at any time. This convenience comes with a cost, however; the more data we entrust to the cloud, the greater the risk of a data breach.

Healthcare providers are particularly vulnerable to data breaches, as they deal with sensitive patient information on a daily basis. That’s why it’s so important for healthcare providers to understand the requirements for HIPAA compliance when using cloud-based applications.

What is HIPAA?

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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a set of federal regulations that protect the privacy and security of patient health information. HIPAA was enacted in 1996, and its regulations have been updated several times since then, most recently in 2013. The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards for the protection of patient health information, while the HIPAA Security Rule sets forth specific requirements for the security of electronic health information.

What Are the Requirements for HIPAA Compliance?

In order to comply with HIPAA, healthcare providers must take steps to ensure that patient health information is kept confidential and secure. When using cloud-based applications, healthcare providers must enter into a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with the service provider.

The BAA is a contract that outlines each party’s obligations with respect to the safeguarding of protected health information. In addition, all users of the cloud-based application must have unique user IDs and passwords, and all data must be encrypted in transit and at rest.

Are There Any Myths About HIPAA Compliance?

There are many myths circulating about what is required for HIPAA compliance. One common misconception is that only covered entities—such as hospitals, clinics, and insurance companies—are subject to HIPAA’s requirements. In fact, any business associate of a covered entity—including cloud service providers—must comply with HIPAA’s regulations.

Another myth is that small businesses are exempt from compliance; this is not true either, as even small businesses handling patient health information must comply with HIPAA’s rules.

Finally, some people believe that de-identifying data makes it exempt from HIPAA; however, this is not correct, as de-identified data can still be linked back to an individual person if enough identifying information is included.

Conclusion

Cloud computing has many advantages for healthcare organizations, including increased flexibility and scalability; however, it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with using cloud-based applications. In particular, healthcare organizations must take care to ensure that their use of such applications complies with HIPAA’s stringent privacy and security requirements. By understanding the requirements for compliance and taking steps to protect patient data, healthcare organizations can safely leverage the benefits of cloud computing without jeopardizing the confidentiality of their patients’ information.

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