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What is HIPAA compliant hosting?

What is HIPAA compliant hosting?

HIPAA compliant hosting is a specialized cloud or data hosting that caters to healthcare organizations and their need to safeguard patient health information. 

While HIPAA doesn't explicitly mention cloud services, it does impose rules for protecting sensitive patient data. A HIPAA compliant hosting service adheres to these rules by providing a secure and controlled environment for storing, managing, and processing patient health information, also known as protected health information (PHI).


Forms of hosting services that healthcare organizations may encounter

  • Database hosting
  • Cloud storage
  • Data centers
  • Disaster recovery services
  • Managed services
  • Colocation data centers
  • Dedicated hosting for sensitive workloads
  • SaaS solution hosting
  • General cloud hosting

See also: A guide to HIPAA and cloud computing


Features to look for when selecting a HIPAA compliant hosting provider

  1. Encryption for data at rest: Stored data must be encrypted to protect it from unauthorized access or breaches.
  2. Event log management: Event log management is necessary to maintain an audit trail. This feature helps track who accesses patient data and what actions are taken, ensuring accountability.
  3. Reliable data backups: Regular data backups and offsite storage should be part of the hosting service to prevent data loss in case of system failures or disasters.
  4. Server availability and reliability: A high level of server availability and reliability, ideally backed by a server uptime Service Level Agreement (SLA), ensures that critical systems remain accessible.
  5. Data stored in HIPAA compliant data centers: The hosting provider should store data in data centers that meet HIPAA compliance standards, ensuring the physical security of the servers and the environment.
  6. Third-party HIPAA/HITECH assessments: Third-party assessments and audits can help validate the hosting provider's compliance with HIPAA and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
  7. Willingness to sign a business associate agreement (BAA): The hosting provider must be willing to sign a BAA, demonstrating their commitment to protecting patient data and their understanding of their responsibilities under HIPAA.

RelatedHIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide


Hosting with servers outside the US

  1. Data sovereignty concernsServers located abroad may raise data sovereignty concerns, as some countries have strict regulations requiring patient data to remain within national borders. This can lead to potential non-compliance with these regulations.
  2. Legal and compliance challenges: Different countries have varying data protection laws and regulations. Using hosting services abroad can introduce legal and compliance challenges due to mismatches in these regulations, making it difficult to ensure HIPAA compliance.
  3. Data transfer and access restrictions: International data transfer restrictions and access limitations may hinder the ability to manage and access patient data securely when hosted abroad. Data may be subject to different rules and restrictions based on its location.
  4. Security and cybersecurity: Hosting servers abroad can introduce security concerns, as the level of cybersecurity in the host country may differ from the organization's home country. This variation can increase the risk of data breaches and security vulnerabilities.
  5. Time zone differences: Time zone differences can affect response times for technical support and issue resolution, which may not align with the organization's operational needs or urgency in a healthcare setting.
  6. Limited control: Organizations may have limited control over the physical security and maintenance of servers when hosted abroad, as they are subject to the practices and policies of the hosting provider and the host country.
  7. Latency and performance: Data hosted abroad may experience latency issues, potentially affecting the performance of healthcare applications and services, which require real-time or high-speed data access.

See also: 7 steps to choose a HIPAA compliant cloud computing service

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