Mary Burko

Mary Burko

Content Writer, Researcher

The need to securely store sensitive health information is paramount. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is not only a legal requirement but also a fundamental part of safeguarding patient privacy and data security for organizations in the healthcare sector. As healthcare providers increasingly transition to digital records and cloud-based solutions, the demand for HIPAA-compliant cloud storage services has never been higher. These services not only ensure compliance but also offer enhanced data security, accessibility, and scalability, making them a valuable asset for healthcare organizations.

HIPAA sets stringent standards for protecting patients' electronic protected health information (ePHI), requiring healthcare organizations to implement comprehensive safeguards to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability. However, navigating the complex landscape of HIPAA compliance, with its numerous rules and regulations, can be daunting, especially when selecting the right cloud storage provider. This complexity underscores the need for expert guidance and solutions that can simplify the process.

Here, we explore HIPAA compliance in cloud storage solutions and highlight key considerations for healthcare organizations seeking secure and reliable platforms for storing their sensitive data. From encryption protocols to access controls and audit trails, we will delve into the essential features that distinguish HIPAA-compliant cloud storage services and help healthcare providers mitigate the risks associated with data breaches and regulatory non-compliance.

What is HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Storage?

HIPAA, short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was established in 1996 with the aim of safeguarding patients' confidential health data. In response to the changing landscape of cybersecurity threats and growing concerns surrounding consumer privacy and data rights, updates have been made to HIPAA, including the HIPAA Omnibus Rules and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH).

Under HIPAA regulations, the disclosure of protected health information (PHI) is prohibited without explicit consent from the patient. Regardless of whether a company is directly involved in providing healthcare services, adherence to HIPAA guidelines is mandatory. Compliance entails ensuring privacy, security, breach notification, and enforcement, particularly for organizations operating in the cloud environment.

A HIPAA-compliant cloud storage system operates according to specific protocols, including data classification, encryption, two-factor authentication, audit trails, access monitoring, and administrative controls. These measures guarantee the highest level of data security and compliance with HIPAA standards. Additionally, cloud storage providers must issue Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) governing their relationship with end users before any PHI is uploaded, stored, or utilized.

Read more about SaaS Solutions for the Healthcare Industry.

What does the organization need to do to be HIPAA-compliant?

To achieve HIPAA compliance, organizations handling PHI must ensure their overall implementation and management of tech tools align with HIPAA regulations. While tech platforms themselves can't be inherently HIPAA compliant, adherence depends on how companies integrate and utilize these platforms within their systems. Even if a cloud storage solution meets HIPAA requirements, it's the responsibility of the organization using it to deploy it correctly and ensure its compatibility with other systems in a HIPAA-compliant manner.

Many cloud storage providers market themselves as supportive of HIPAA compliance, highlighting their adherence to regulations. However, they can't control how their technology is ultimately used by their customers. Therefore, the onus of HIPAA compliance lies with the organizations themselves. Nevertheless, numerous HIPAA-compliant data storage providers offer educational resources and support programs to assist users in implementing storage solutions appropriately while maintaining compliance, providing valuable guidance and assistance along the way.

The 5 Best HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Storage Solutions

1. Google Cloud

The entirety of the G Suite, which includes Google Drive, is acknowledged as a platform compliant with HIPAA regulations. However, to ensure compliance, non-essential services within the suite need to be deactivated. Apart from the internal security measures taken by the company, Google Cloud aids in compliance by promoting the adoption of HIPAA best practices such as identity and access management, robust encryption methods, version and access controls, and maintaining detailed audit logs. As evidence of their commitment to compliance, Google Cloud offers users various industry-standard audits and certifications, such as ISO 27001, ISO 27017, SSAE16/ISAE 3402 Type II, ISO 27018, FedRAMP ATO, and PCI DSS v3.2.1.

2. Dropbox

Dropbox aids in maintaining HIPAA compliance by providing users with comprehensive security guidelines. These include customizing sharing permissions, restricting permanent file deletion, monitoring account access and user activities, and assessing the compliance implications of third-party applications and integrations. Similar to other HIPAA-compliant storage options, Dropbox offers third-party reports to demonstrate its adherence to HIPAA regulations internally.

3. Microsoft OneDrive

Pioneering in cloud service provision with BAAs tailored for healthcare, Microsoft encompasses a suite of services, including Office 365, OneDrive for Business, Azure, Dynamics 365, and PowerBI. Upholding HIPAA compliance, the company employs robust security measures such as 256-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit keys for SSI/TLS connections, alongside holding ISO/IEC 27001 and HITRUST CSF certifications. Moreover, Microsoft mandates that all its vendors and subcontractors adhere to identical HIPAA-compliant standards and limitations concerning PHI.

4. Box

HIPAA, HITECH, and HIPAA Omnibus Rule compliance are all highlighted as advantages of Box's cloud storage and file-sharing service. Box is often a top choice for healthcare providers because it allows secure viewing of DICOM medical files, such as X-rays, ultrasound images, and CT scans. Data encryption, access restrictions, activity reports, and audit trails are also included as part of the solution's HIPAA compliance. Box also provides disaster mitigation services using mirrored, active-active data centers.

5. Carbonite

As one of the leading HIPAA-compliant cloud backup solutions since 2005 (when deployed correctly), Carbonite supports HIPAA compliance. Its HIPAA-compliant security features are 256-bit AES encryption for data in storage, Transport Layer Security for data in transit, and data deduplication across data sets. Furthermore, Carbonite helps prevent human error by transparently encrypting PHI, offering read/write access controls, and enabling port lockdowns to prevent unauthorized access.

Also, read Online Health Transformation: Designing Effective Medical Websites.

Final Thoughts

IT professionals aren't all up to speed on the best ways to implement cloud technology, but cloud computing and cloud storage can help businesses achieve incredible results. EcDev Studio can help with that! Find out how your company can implement cloud-native applications that are HIPAA compliant.

Feel free to contact us to schedule a no-pressure meeting about HIPAA compliance for your cloud storage!

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