The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements dictate the actions you have to take when handling electronic protected health information. While many healthcare organizations pay close attention to HIPAA requirements when it comes to internally facing solutions, they may not realize that they have to do the same with their external systems, such as their website.
A HIPAA-compliant web host adheres to all of the regulations regarding ePHI, from the technical to the administrative. Many standard web hosts do not offer this level of service, as they would have to change many of their standard policies and configurations. Hosts specifically looking to serve the healthcare industry are the ones who follow the regulations for their clients.
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What to ask HIPAA Compliant Web Hosts
Here is a list of questions that you'll want to go through when you're discussing HIPAA hosting options with a new service provider.
- Have you gone through an independent audit? You want to be sure that the web host is HIPAA compliant before you start using them. If you end up building a website or application on a non-compliant host, then you could put yourself in a situation where ePHI is at risk or you are liable for fines.
- Do your employees understand the importance of adhering to HIPAA regulations? The web host may offer services that meet the requirements for HIPAA compliance, but a lack of employee training could compromise patient data and your operation.
- What is your process in the event of a data breach? Even the best-protected systems could get breached in the face of a sophisticated attack method. Make sure you know what they do during this emergency situation and how soon you would find out about any breached data.
- How do you plan on accommodating any changes to HIPAA regulations in the future? You don't want to base your web operations on a host that can't adapt to any regulatory changes. Make sure that they're the right host for your short- and long-term needs.
- What security measures do you have in place? Get a better understanding of how the web host intended on protecting ePHI and other sensitive information.
- Are you willing to set up a business association agreement? A business association agreement details exactly how health information is handled by the service provider.
Goals of a HIPAA-Compliant Web Host
The HIPAA-compliant web host has several goals for serving its healthcare clients:
- Maintain an available and secure web hosting environment
- Adhere to all relevant HIPAA requirements
- Quickly address any hardware or software issues getting in the way of daily operations
- Offering a hosting environment that adapts to changes in HIPAA regulations
Qualities of a HIPAA-Compliant Web Host
Outside of the HIPAA-specific requirements you have for a host, look for these characteristics when choosing a service provider:
- Responsive. You don't want to wait an unreasonable amount of time when you have a question or concern about your hosting. Find out how long it takes to get in touch with the service provider in different situations.
- Strong security measures. Don't skimp on the security side of things, as data breaches and HIPAA fines can be remarkably expensive prospects.
- Excellent reputation. Look for web hosts that are well-established and have a great reputation.
- Deep understanding of the healthcare technology industry. You want a host that understands your unique needs as a healthcare organization, rather than a service provider that offers HIPAA-compliant services as a way to get more clients.
You have a lot to evaluate when you're looking for a HIPAA-compliant web host. When the risk of losing data results in significant damage to your company, a lengthy evaluation process is worth it.