Online communication in healthcare is rapidly expanding, largely due to the effects of the current global pandemic. Patients are increasingly reliant on web communication tools and healthcare apps to stay in contact with their physicians and manage their health and wellbeing. With demand growing, our attention must be directed to making sure that healthcare apps protect the integrity of sensitive patient data. In this article, we discuss what you should be considering when choosing a suitable HIPAA platform to ensure that your new healthcare app complies with HIPAA regulations.

What Is HIPAA Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a US federal law, was enacted in 1996 and documents standards for the safety and security of protected health information (PHI). Both Covered Entities and their Business Associates should adhere to the regulations laid out in HIPAA legislation. The two key sections of HIPAA law are the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule. The Privacy Rule establishes the guidelines for protecting all forms of patient information, while the Security Rule focuses on the protection of electronic PHI (ePHI). It is crucial that healthcare organizations understand and implement HIPAA guidelines, as failure to comply with the legislation can lead to costly penalties.

Should Your App Be HIPAA-Compliant?

When designing a new healthcare app, you must carefully consider whether it needs to comply with HIPAA regulations. In a nutshell, if your app manages, stores, or discloses PHI, or has the capacity to do so, it should be HIPAA-compliant. PHI includes any data that is personally identifiable, such as medical records and results, demographic information, and billing information. If your app will only be used for non-identifiable information, such as calories burnt or resting heartbeat then it would not fall under the scope of HIPAA compliance; however, if you tie that calories burnt data to a user, then it will become PHI.

Choosing a HIPAA-Compliant Platform

As an app developer, you should thoroughly vet any potential third parties before partnering with them. It is imperative that your chosen hosting provider can ensure that you remain fully compliant with HIPAA regulations and that your ePHI is adequately safeguarded, so take your time and choose wisely. Here, we have summed up some of the factors that you should consider as you search for a suitable HIPAA-compliant platform:

1. Check out the infrastructure interoperability

Interoperability is of great importance within the health sector, as patients, physicians, and health insurance providers must have the capacity to share health information. An increasing number of healthcare organizations are adopting HIPAA-compliant cloud infrastructure to optimize the interoperability between different systems and enhance data sharing. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of interoperability within the health system as remote data sharing holds more value than ever before.

2. Obtain a signed Business Associate Agreement (BAA)

Any third-party service provider must offer you a signed BAA to ensure HIPAA compliance. When outsourcing your infrastructure to a hosting provider, you need to be confident that they will implement and maintain the necessary safeguards to ensure that your app is fully compliant. A signed BAA offers you the reassurance that your chosen service provider is dedicated to your compliance needs, detailing how they will ensure the safe handling of ePHI.

3. Ensure implementation of adequate access controls and encryption

A good HIPAA-compliant platform will adopt a security-first approach, implementing the necessary safeguards to protect the integrity of patient data. Choose a platform that offers effective physical and technical safeguards, including 24×7 monitoring, data encryption, CCTV, access controls, and Intrusion Prevention Systems.

4. Assess the efficacy of internal risk assessments

Regular internal risk assessments are an important aspect of HIPAA compliance. These checks enable HIPAA hosting providers to identify any vulnerabilities within your cloud environment that may risk the integrity of ePHI. Given the rapid evolution of cybersecurity, risk assessments should be completed annually at a minimum.

5. Find out more about their compliance standards

When choosing a suitable cloud hosting provider, be sure to choose one that has been fully certified and audited by an independent third party. External audits ensure that a hosting provider’s processes, policies, and facilities comply fully with HIPAA standards. HITECH certification ensures that service providers are complying with the policies and procedures documented in the HITECH act regarding the integrity of Electronic Health Record (EHR) information.

You should also inquire about Service Organization Control (SOC) audits. This examines the use of internal controls and implementation of AICPA best practices, looking at physical security, availability, processing, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

6. Consider using a managed service

As the health sector faces unprecedented strain, healthcare providers find themselves stretched and extremely busy. A Managed Service Provider can ease some of the strain on healthcare providers and maximize the time that they can spend with their patients. By outsourcing the management of your infrastructure, you can leave the stresses and complexities of data protection in the capable hands of the experts!

How Can Atlantic.Net Help?

Atlantic.Net hosts a multitude of web applications for our clients, and we have a number of services available to speed up your deployment. We have one-click apps available that launch in less than 30 seconds. Need cloud storage to host your app? Why not spin up your own private nextcloud host!

And for a jump start to your app, we have offer one-click LEMP, LAMP, Docker, and even cPanel or WordPress, if needed, to round out the hosting environment around your new app, all of which can be protected by Atlantic.Net’s managed services such as Managed Firewall, Intrusion Prevention Service, Multi-Factor Authentication, and more.

As an award-winning web and cloud hosting provider, Atlantic.Net has over 30 years of industry-leading experience. We provide HIPAA-compliant, dedicated, managed, and cloud hosting solutions to an extensive list of leading healthcare clients. We are independently audited and certified by a third-party auditing firm, fulfilling HIPAA, HITECH,  SOC 2, and SOC 3 requirements while exceeding PCI-DSS, GDPR, and CCPA compliance.

Atlantic.Net will sign a BAA detailing our contractual obligations regarding the safety and security of PHI. Our HIPAA-compliant cloud hosting solution offers an encrypted VPN, 100% uptime guarantee, fully managed firewall solutions, Certified Data Centers providing state-of-the-art redundant systems, power, and physical security, as well as our industry-leading experience in surpassing compliance and security standards.

If you are looking for a suitable HIPAA platform for your new app, then look no further! Contact our team today to find out how we can help you to host and maintain your fully HIPAA-compliant app.