The dynamics of the American healthcare industry is changing at a rapid pace.

The HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act was signed into law in 2009, and later in 2013, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act) Omnibus Rule was released, which collectively paved a path for the rapid digitization of the American dental and healthcare industry. This process of digitization has already made a tremendous impact by improving and streamlining the protected healthcare information available to doctors and other healthcare professionals in various aspects while saving thousands of lives.

HITECH, by bringing electronic health records (EHRs) into mainstream operations, also led to a rapid expansion of those organizations that access, store, and process such kind of information, and therefore, fall under HIPAA compliance category. However, this has resulted in most entities, small and mid-sized businesses in particular, being unsure about their roles and responsibilities under the regulation.

HIPAA and Its Impact on SMBs

All kinds of entities belonging to the healthcare sector or IT facilities for those providing medical services in the United States must be aware of HIPAA along with their responsibilities essential for complying with the regulations. On the other hand, it is to be noted that HIPAA is applied to all kinds of businesses that store and process electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI), which generally includes Personal Details, Medical Information, and Descriptions provided by doctors or medical professionals about the treatments.

Hence, for such businesses, it is more than just a mere obligation to comply with the HIPAA regulations, and in fact, failing to do so may result in some unwanted penalties. And, in fact, the fine is decided by each individual breached record, and the organizations, be it healthcare services or their associates, are enlisted on breach records (also called “Wall of Shame”) released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR). These records mainly showcase businesses of all types and sizes that are found non-HIPAA compliant. Thankfully though, for those businesses that are unclear about the HIPAA requirements, it is not at all challenging, and assistance is readily available to get the job done.

Ensuring HIPAA Compliance in SMBs

The second section, mostly referred to as “Title II”, is the main section of HIPAA for business associates. This section outlines the general needs and requirements for administering ePHI, which comprises HIPAA Security Rule – the key pointers which SMBs need to take into consideration. Also, it specifies the parameters that need to be followed for securing patient information both in transit and in storage.

To be precise, there are 3 types of safeguards involved in the HIPAA security rule, which are supposed to jointly ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and security of the electronic Protected Health Information.

Administrative Safeguards: As an owner, you need to adhere to the standard policies and procedures regarding how to secure ePHI as well as limiting/controlling digital access given to the employees. You also need to have properly documented agreements, generally referred to as Business Associate Agreements, in place with any third-party vendor you work with. The agreement should include both parties’ roles and responsibilities under HIPAA for better understanding.

Technical Safeguards: All kinds of electronically protected health information must be secured by controlling digital access. This may include different kinds of procedures, policies, and technologies. Organizations should carefully analyze and determine what kind of policies and technologies are required, and then, deploy and follow them.

Physical Safeguards: When it comes to physical security, it is imperative for you to control access to your office premises as well as all the servers and networked devices. This requirement also specifies controlling usage of any device outside of the workplace, for instance, at an employee’s residence, physical storage locations, and the data centers (if any).

The act also consists of other obligations, such as the Privacy Rule standard to restrict data sharing to the “minimum necessary” volume, but the Security Rule is the major hurdle for the organization.

Once you determine that HIPAA is applied to your business, you should get in touch with an independent, reliable, and trustworthy third-party auditor to walk you through the process. Collaborating with a reputable hosting company that has a deep understanding of HIPAA is another crucial part that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not all hosting providers specialize and provide HIPAA compliant hosting services, and therefore, you need to do thorough research and find the best HIPAA compliant hosting provider to avoid unnecessary complications.

What to Expect From Your Cloud Hosting Partner?

Although no hosting company can ensure complete HIPAA compliance, there are several aspects a reputable host with specialization and experience in the field of cloud hosting can do to help. First of all, your hosting service provider must have proper measures to ensure authorized access to your servers along with providing the latest malware and antivirus programs in place to make you HIPAA compliant.

Administrative Safeguards: Along with having cybersecurity protections and employee access controls, your hosting partner must provide you ePHI backup and recovery while having detailed logs.

Technical Safeguards: For HIPAA compliant hosting company, it is crucial to have a broad range of new and efficient technology solutions in place to ensure the protection of ePHI. Data and network encryption, proper monitoring and tracking systems are some of the most important measures that you need to check before signing up with the vendor.

Physical Safeguards: Your cloud hosting partner must be able to assure you regarding having proper building security. You must get an assurance that only authorized employees from their team can access your servers physically. Also, they need to show you a detailed strategy regarding how to keep your servers up and running, and in case of natural disaster, how to restore them.

Sagenext Understands HIPAA Like Nobody Else

A leading IT hosting provider, Sagenext is specialized in providing world-class QuickBooks hosting solutions to small and mid-sized businesses belonging to different industries and sectors. Having partnered with SSAE-16 (SOC-1/SOC-2) audited and HIPAA compliant data centers in the U.S., Sagenext provides comprehensive tax and accounting application hosting solutions backed by highly professional customer support for clients launching or offering services for the healthcare and dental sector. The experienced professionals at Sagenext who possess extensive knowledge and understanding about HIPAA regulations and they are always available to help the clients in ensuring the protection of sensitive patient information as per the law.