HIPAA Compliance: How to Find Secure Archive Solutions for Healthcare Data

HIPAA ComplianceHow to Find Secure Archive Solutions for Healthcare Data

Data is an important resource in the healthcare sector that ensures efficient organizational performance and effective treatment plans. Finding secure archive solutions for stored data is, eventually, a top priority for all growing organizations.

Security is a crucial part of storing data. The accumulation of data subsequently brings about security and compliance concerns that healthcare providers must address.

Along with implementing strong security mechanisms like encryption for data protection, health organizations are always searching for secure archive solutions that best comply with major data compliance standards like GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA.

In this article, we’ll learn about the steps to finding a secure archive solution that provides data protection and works in compliance with regulatory acts. Subsequently, we aim to explore the key aspects of finding a secure archive solution focusing on compliance acts.

Finding a Secure Archiving Solution

As mentioned earlier, securing data is crucial to maintaining patient confidentiality and ensuring compliance with regulatory acts applicable in the health sector. Some major compliance acts include

  • General Data Protection Protocol (GDPR): It is a standard set by the European Union that ensures data protection and privacy across various sectors. Any business entity that monitors, collects, or stores data of European Union residents must comply with this act.
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS): is an international standard that any business entity that processes credit or debit card transactions must follow
  • The Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA is pivotal in the United States for safeguarding medical information and ensuring it’s confidential.

For the sake of this article, let us dissect the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act first and how its compliance is crucial for selecting a secure data archive solution for health care data.

Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA)

The Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA) is a series of federal regulatory standards outlining the lawful use and disclosure of protected health information in the United States. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regulate and enforce HIPAA compliance. 

Understanding HIPAA Compliance

This act, in fact, defines the security and privacy regulations required for addressing Patient Health Information (PHI)  and Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). Healthcare organizations operating in the US must comply with HIPAA rules, including the cloud archiving solutions that provide data archival services in the healthcare sector.

Protected Health Information (PHI)

Protected health information (PHI) is any information in the medical record that can be used or disclosed while providing a health care service, such as diagnosis or treatment. The said information can identify an individual. For example, names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, medical records, etc.

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Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI)

Electronic protected health information (ePHI) has the same attributes as protected health information (PHI). However, ePHI is protected health information that can be stored, used, or transferred electronically.

Who Needs to be HIPAA compliant?

In general, two main entities need to be HIPAA Complaint.

  • Covered Entities (CEs): covered entities directly provide or administer healthcare. For example, medical practitioners, health plans, etc.
  • Business Associates (BAs): Business associates are third-party service providers who access Patient health information(PHI) while performing services on behalf of covered entities. These include billing companies, Electronic Health Record (EHI) vendors, consultants, and auditors.

HIPAA Compliance Rules

There are three main HIPAA compliance rules.

HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule addresses the risk of Patient health information (PHI) being compromised or used for identity theft.

HIPAA Security Rule

The HIPAA Security Rule outlines the regulations for protecting Electronic Protected health information (ePHI). The Security Rule only applies to ePHI and the security of electronic data. Covered entities must ensure the standard data integrity, confidentiality, and availability of all ePHI to comply with this security rule. To sum up,

  • Confidentiality: maintaining that ePHI is not illegally disclosed without proper patient authorizations.
  • Integrity: ensuring that ePHI that is transferred or maintained by a health care organization will not be accessed except by appropriate and authorized parties.
  • Availability: is allowing patients to access their ePHI following HIPAA security standards.

HIPAA Breach Notification Rule

 The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule defines an organization’s steps if they suspect a data breach involving ePHI has occurred. The organization needs to determine the impact and scope of the breach through a risk assessment and, if necessary, issue notifications.

Healthcare facilities should ensure that their chosen data-archiving solution aligns with the rules of the HIPAA Act. Failure to comply may result in civil, monetary, or criminal penalties. ShareArchiver is a platform that does not compromise on these compliance regulations. To learn more about their compliance and security features, click here.

Now that we know the rules and involved parties of the HIPAA Act. Let us move on and learn more about the aspects to remember while searching for a secure archive solution.

Data Integrity and Auditing Trials

Ensuring data integrity is an essential component of a secure data archive solution. In other words, no one has tampered with the data during storage or transfer. An archiving solution should have the following options to ensure data integrity.

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Change logging

A secure data archive solution records every data access and change. It creates a complete history and helps see who accessed, modified, and deleted data during auditing trials.

Version management

Additionally, for data integrity, version management is beneficial. That is to say that whenever a healthcare provider wants to change data, they access the most recent version. However, during audit trials, the original data can be accessed.

Electronic Signature

Secure archiving solutions provide the option of securing data digitally. A digital signature algorithm allows two distinct operations to secure data. First, The signatory uses their private key to encrypt a hash of the data, generating a unique digital signature. Second, The recipient can then use the signatory’s public key to decrypt and verify the signature, ensuring the data’s integrity and authenticity.

Implement Error Correction and Detection Code

Lastly, secure data archive solutions use error correction or detection codes to verify data integrity. Doing so reduces errors and improves efficiency, security, and overall performance.

Encryption and Access Control

Next, healthcare facilities should opt for archival solutions that use encryption to protect data in storage and transit. Encryption is critical in securing data, acting as a digital guardian for crucial information. It converts stored data into a code to restrict unauthorized access.

  •  Transport Layer Security (TLS): Secures data in transit. This encryption method guarantees secure communication over networks.
  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): Secures data at rest. In short, it secures the data secured in servers or storage devices.

Along with data encryption, access control prevents unauthorized users from accessing data. Authentication methods can be used to avoid unnecessary security breaches.

  • Multifactor Authentication Method (MFA): is an authentication method that requires the user to provide two or more verification factors to gain access.

Backup and Recovery Strategy

A secure archiving solution should back up data at least once daily. Furthermore, organizations should keep backup copies of their data offsite and away from the original data. This way, they can recreate a database if the original one gets corrupted or damaged.

In addition, automated backup plans can be implemented to back up data automatically. The healthcare provider can specify their maintenance objectives, including when automatic maintenance can run.

Data Retention Policies

Covered Entities and Business Associates must maintain documentation for at least six years under the HIPAA Act.

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Organizations can reduce storage costs by defining specific data retention timeframes and subsequently avoiding unnecessary data storage. Automated deletion operations can delete data that no longer falls within the required retention period without manual intervention.

To conclude, An administrator of a secure data archive solution should conduct regular reviews and updates of the data retention policies in compliance with regulatory acts.

User Tracking and Awareness

Healthcare providers with secured data access should be trained. Furthermore, they should be given awareness of the security regulations set forth by the HIPAA Act. Some of the basics of HIPAA security awareness include

Understanding the importance of protecting Patient health information (PHI)

Healthcare providers should understand the importance of maintaining PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability and the potential consequences of not protecting PHI.

Implementing security measures 

Healthcare employees must be trained to secure PHI using firewalls, encryption, and remote access. They are responsible for effectively understanding how to use and maintain these security measures.

Responding to security incidents

Employees must be trained to respond effectively to security incidents, including data breaches and unauthorized access to PHI. This includes knowing how to report a security incident and who to contact for assistance.

Vendor Assessment

For secure data archiving, choosing the right vendor is crucial. The chosen vendor should meet the organization’s requirements and be aware of the regulatory acts to ensure smooth and safe data archiving.

Moreover, third parties must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) to outline their compliance with the HIPAA Act when working with healthcare organizations.

Business Associate Act (BAA)

BAA is a contract between a covered entity(healthcare organization, etc.) and a Business Associate(Data Archiving Solution vendor, etc.) that covers each party’s responsibilities for safeguarding sensitive patient Healthcare information.

Scalability and Growth

For long-term use, choose a solution that grows with the growth of your data. A healthcare organization’s data archiving solution should effectively manage increases in the number and size of files without significantly affecting performance or pricing. Scalability ensures the solution continues to meet your needs well into the future.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a secure data archiving solution is essential for an organization’s performance. Involving legal and compliance consultants can help choose a secure archive solution for an organization. 

Implementing a secure data archiving solution that complies with HIPAA standards will defend against security breaches, maintain data integrity, and ensure scalability for future challenges.