In the healthcare industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) demands that any covered entity that handles or processes electronic protected health information must adhere to the rules and regulations of HIPAA compliance.
About this guide
In this comprehensive guide to HIPAA compliant WordPress hosting in 2023, we'll explore the key details you need to know to ensure your website fully complies with HIPAA regulations. We'll cover everything from getting a business associate agreement and learning the HIPAA compliance requirements for infrastructure to the best practices for working with third-party plugins and themes.
By the end of this guide, you'll have a clear understanding of what it takes to achieve HIPAA compliance for your WordPress website. You'll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to protect your patients' sensitive information.
How does HIPAA impact web hosting for healthcare providers?
HIPAA compliant hosting allows healthcare providers to protect patient information's privacy and security. Failure to do so can result in significant penalties and irreparable damage to the organization's reputation. This is why HIPAA compliance is essential for websites that handle patient information, such as those built on the popular content management system WordPress.
However, achieving and maintaining a HIPAA compliant website is a formidable task. Even the most minor oversight can have consequences; your website's compliance status can be affected by even the smallest detail.
HIPAA compliant WordPress hosting services
When it comes to hosting a HIPAA compliant WordPress site for healthcare professionals, choosing a hosting provider with experience and expertise in the healthcare industry is essential. HIPAA compliant hosting services offer healthcare providers features and solutions designed with industry-specific needs.
Managed service providers like Atlantic.Net deliver HIPAA compliant services with various security measures as standard, including data encryption, intrusion detection and prevention, and regular security audits. Additional features include automatic offsite backups, uptime guarantees, and dedicated support teams.
Learn about making WordPress HIPAA compliant
WordPress is the most popular platform for building websites in the world. It is estimated that at least 42% of all websites utilize WordPress. WordPress dominates the CMS marketplace with over a 66% market share.
Is WordPress HIPAA Compliant Out of the Box?
It's important to remember that WordPress wasn't designed with HIPAA compliance in mind. However, making a WordPress site HIPAA compliant is possible with the right tools and strategies.
It involves implementing the security controls and protocols that meet the requirements defined by the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)
Common safeguards include invoking SSL encryption, access controls, and audit trails and ensuring that any third-party plugins or themes used on the site are HIPAA compliant. Regularly review and update your compliance strategy to ensure your website complies with current regulations.
Is It Difficult to Ensure HIPAA Compliance for Your WordPress Site?
HIPAA compliance is a complicated set of regulations that have evolved over the decades since it was created to keep up with technological advancements. There are over 60 rules which underline why so many other healthcare organizations choose to outsource their IT services to HIPAA Compliant hosting providers to ensure that electronic protected health information data integrity is upheld.
What are the critical features of HIPAA compliance?
When selecting HIPAA compliant services, there are several features to consider. One key feature is data encryption, which protects sensitive information from unauthorized access. A fully managed firewall is another important feature, as it helps to prevent malicious attacks and unauthorized access attempts.
Additionally, many HIPAA compliant WordPress hosting services offer regular security audits and vulnerability scans to help identify and address potential security risks. Other useful features may include automatic offsite backups, disaster recovery options, and dedicated support teams.
Choosing a hosting service with the right features ensures that your WordPress website fully complies with HIPAA guidelines and protects your patients' confidential information.
Business associate agreement
Before starting your HIPAA compliance journey, getting a signed business associate agreement is essential. A BAA is a legally binding contract between a covered entity (CE) and a business associate (BA) that outlines the BA's responsibilities for protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected health information (PHI).
Fully managed firewall
A managed firewall is an essential component of HIPAA compliant WordPress hosting. Firewalls help to protect your website from malicious attacks by monitoring incoming and outgoing traffic and blocking any suspicious activity.
A fully managed firewall means that your hosting provider takes care of all the setup and maintenance of the firewall, ensuring that it is always up to date and configured correctly.
The key areas in which a managed firewall can help your healthcare organization achieve compliance include:
Block unauthorized access to PHI:
A HIPAA compliant, fully managed firewall must be set up to prevent unauthorized access to patient health information (PHI) using proper authentication methods such as single sign-on (SSO) to authorized users.
Monitor for unauthorized access and activity:
The firewall must be constantly monitored for any suspicious activity or unauthorized access attempts to PHI. Any unusual activity must be promptly investigated and addressed to ensure that PHI is not compromised.
A SIEM application can help make sense of the extensive verbose logging generated by a Web Application Firewall, improving response times and ensuring only genuine incidents are reported.
Maintained to ensure up-to-date security:
The firewall must be regularly maintained to ensure it is up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. This will help to prevent any potential vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
Choosing a HIPAA Compliant provider will offload this critical but time-consuming responsibility to a third party.
Audited regularly for HIPAA compliance:
A fully managed firewall must be audited regularly to comply with HIPAA data privacy rules. Such actions will prevent configuration drift and help healthcare organizations to identify any potential areas of non-compliance and take corrective action early.
An encrypted VPN is necessary to ensure transmission security and data integrity. A virtual private network (VPN) creates a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the server, protecting your data from prying eyes.
With a VPN, you can ensure that the data center of your WordPress website is accessible only by authorized personnel and that sensitive patient information is always protected.
When selecting a VPN for HIPAA compliant WordPress hosting, you must choose a VPN provider with strong encryption and security protocols, with at least AES 256-bit encryption. Look for a provider with a proven track record of protecting user privacy that adheres to HIPAA regulations.
Not all VPNs are created equal, and you need to do your homework to find one that will work best for your team. Selecting a strong and encrypted VPN tunnel is critical to keep sensitive medical records and healthcare data safe from potential data breaches.
Data encryption is one of the best technical safeguards to prevent a data breach, and the HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities to implement encryption at rest and in transit. Covered entities should also implement other security measures, including:
- Implementing strong passwords and access controls
- Using firewalls and intrusion detection systems
- Conducting regular security audits
- Training employees on security best practices
- Implement HIPAA Compliant email services
- Use HIPAA compliant email for secure communication
Managed HIPAA compliant hosting
There are strict rules surrounding the WordPress hosting infrastructure. Choosing a hosting company that offers dedicated servers and hosting solutions that are safe harbor compliant and feature data encryption at rest is advisable.
Choose a service provider that offers Linux and Windows server web hosts, supported by an administrative and technical team with excellent customer service, so you can be confident that any issues will be resolved quickly and efficiently.
Physical safeguards are a critical aspect of HIPAA compliance that can often be overlooked. HIPAA requires covered entities and business associates, such as the hosting company, to implement reasonable and appropriate physical safeguards to protect ePHI from unauthorized access, theft, or damage.
These safeguards may include physical barriers, access controls to the HIPAA dedicated servers, and environmental controls, such as fire suppression systems and temperature and humidity controls.
Neglecting such physical safeguards can result in severe consequences if found to be violating HIPAA regulations, including data breaches, unauthorized access to ePHI, and hefty fines.
Your preferred web hosting providers should offer complete transparency and be able to demonstrate extensive administrative capability for the healthcare sector, evidenced by the business associate agreement.
Choose a HIPAA Compliant hosting provider you can offload many of the technical safeguards required by HIPAA. These include a variety of measures, such as access controls, audit controls, integrity controls, transmission security, and contingency planning.
Access controls can be implemented through user authentication and authorization mechanisms, such as unique usernames and strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and IP geolocation technology to ensure that only authorized individuals access ePHI. Audit controls can help monitor access to ePHI and identify any security breaches or unauthorized access attempts.
Integrity controls, such as data encryption, can help prevent unauthorized modification or the unauthorized destruction of ePHI.
Transmission security involves ensuring that ePHI is transmitted securely over networks through secure protocols like SSL/TLS. Combined with a Web Application Firewall creates a secure ecosystem for the entire web stack, providing excellent protection against 0-day exploits.
Contingency planning involves having a disaster recovery plan to ensure that ePHI remains available during a system outage or other emergency. This commonly involved having critical backups available in multiple locations and a technical solution capable of failing over core business systems in the event of a catastrophic failure or natural disaster.
By implementing these technical safeguards, WordPress hosting providers can help ensure their clients' ePHI remains secure and HIPAA compliant.
HIPAA compliant themes and plugins
Proceed with caution when using WordPress themes and plugins for a HIPAA compliant website. While these tools can be a great way to enhance the functionality and design of your site, they can also introduce potential security vulnerabilities or non-compliant features.
To ensure that your site remains fully compliant with HIPAA regulations, carefully vet any themes or plugins before installing them and only use those designed explicitly with HIPAA compliance in mind.
This may mean paying for premium plugins or custom development work. Still, it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your website is fully compliant and secure.
Some popular HIPAA compliant plugins include:
- HIPAA FORMS is a plugin that allows you to create HIPAA compliant forms. It integrates with Caldera Forms and Gravity Forms and encrypts data before submitting it.
- HIPAAtizer is a cloud-based service that provides HIPAA compliant features, including secure submission hosting, data collection, and access logging.
Always check these plugins before installation. If you try them out, keep all themes and plugins up-to-date and regularly monitor your site for potential security issues.
Hosting providers must navigate a complex landscape of regulations and requirements.
Some providers, such as Atlantic.Net, offer HIPAA compliant services, including a signed business associate agreement, security monitoring, data encryption at rest, and network gateway points.
With these features, businesses can reduce the risk of HIPAA violations and ensure their website and data are secure.
To ensure full compliance, businesses must follow HIPAA's security rules and implement appropriate safeguards. To take your compliance to the next level, look for a provider that is also HITECH compliant.
By checking off all the boxes on the HIPAA compliance checklist, businesses can protect themselves from potential violations and demonstrate their commitment to security and privacy.
Necessary features for HIPAA compliant web hosting
In conclusion, ensuring HIPAA compliance for your website requires much more than simply using WordPress as your content management system. You must carefully consider the infrastructure surrounding your website, including the features offered by your hosting provider and the data centers where your data is stored.
While other hosting providers may claim to offer HIPAA compliant hosting, do your due diligence and confirm that the provider offers the necessary features to meet HIPAA's rigorous security and privacy standards. These features may include things like data encryption, regular backups, robust access controls, and strict physical security protocols.
Additionally, as a healthcare provider, you are responsible for protecting the sensitive patient data you collect and store on your website. This means taking a proactive approach to HIPAA compliance and implementing the necessary security measures to keep that data safe from breaches and other security threats.
Whether using WordPress for your website or working with other web hosts, it's critical to prioritize HIPAA compliance and ensure that your hosting infrastructure meets the necessary standards. Doing so can minimize your risk of data breaches and protect your patient's privacy and security.
Author: Robert Agar
Robert Agar is a regular contributor and blogger for Atlantic.Net, living in Northeastern Pennsylvania, specializing in various information technology topics. He brings over 30 years of IT experience to the table with a focus on backup, disaster recovery, security, compliance, and the cloud.
Atlantic.Net: Leaders in HIPAA compliant WordPress hosting
So if you're looking for a reliable and secure HIPAA compliant hosting provider, look no further than Atlantic.Net. With 29 years of experience in healthcare IT and a dedicated focus on security and compliance, Atlantic.Net offers a wide range of features and services to help healthcare providers meet their HIPAA obligations.
From encrypted data storage to multi-factor authentication and regular security audits, Atlantic.Net's HIPAA compliant hosting solutions offer the peace of mind to focus on patient care and growing your practice. And with 24/7/365 support from our team of experts, you can rest assured that we'll be there to help you every step of the way.
Don't risk your patients' data with other hosting providers that may not have the necessary features and experience to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Choose Atlantic.Net for all your healthcare hosting needs, and experience the peace of mind that comes with knowing your website and patient data are secure and compliant.
Learn more about Atlantic.Net HIPAA compliant hosting solutions.