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Achieving HIPAA compliance with AWS services

By Brian Galura -

Achieving HIPAA compliance with AWS services

HIPAA, aka Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was rolled out in 1996. As companies gradually turn to cloud solutions to fulfill advanced technical challenges, there has been increasing concern about HIPAA compliance for cloud customers.

Wondering how to achieve HIPAA compliance with AWS services?

Well, your concern is genuine, and we are here to clear the air for you. Read this article to get a hold of what HIPAA is, its motive and significance, and what AWS service users must know. We have covered it all.

What is HIPAA?

This legislation was previously enacted to address one specific issue, such as insurance coverage for employees who quit or change jobs. Therefore, employees could not transfer their insurance coverage when they changed employment if HIPAA did not exist.

HIPAA is well-known for safeguarding the health and privacy of patients. It ensures every PHI or Protected Health Information is adequately secured and hinders access to crucial health data to unauthorized personnel. This is how HIPAA helps prevent healthcare deception.

Furthermore, HIPAA covers how business associates and healthcare professionals can manage patients' sensitive information and safeguard their health reports. With the help of HIPAA, they set the benchmark, which is required to ensure PHI is preserved, maintained, and thoroughly accessible every time.

Why does HIPAA matter?

HIPAA was created to protect patient data, and as healthcare data breaches have become more frequent, so has HIPAA enforcement. OCR, or the Office of Civil Rights, has been liable for enacting HIPAA regulations. OCR has acquired over 177,854 complaints since the April 2003 compliance deadline. However, it has already started over 884 compliance reviews.

Your business must be HIPAA compliant to tackle PHI or be willing to work with healthcare organizations. Therefore, having HIPAA compliance will demonstrate that your business has required protections for PHI and can manage data efficiently.

Who Does it Apply To?

HIPAA compliance implies that HIPAA-protected business associates and entities follow the extreme standards the law implements. It must be an ongoing process where this program should be adequately analyzed, developed, and maintained.

Organizations can better defend patient data, privacy, and the physical locations and equipment that comprise PHI by adhering to the regulations demanded by HIPAA.

HIPAA compliance applies to every person, from a healthcare company to a cloud-hosted one. It needs quick access and the utilization of guarded health details, such as the PHI of patients, as mentioned in the HIPAA compliance regulations.

Numerous benefits are there to being HIPAA compliant. As it’s about obtaining HIPAA compliance with AWS services, HIPAA compliance AWS makes it possible for covered companies and their business partners subject to the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to handle, manage, and store protected health information in the secure AWS environment.

It has propagated its HIPAA compliance program to incorporate IAM Identity Center as a HIPAA-eligible service. This HIPAA compliance AWS provides a HIPAA-oriented whitepaper for customers who want to know more about utilizing AWS services to process and preserve health details.

How does HIPAA Compliance Affect Cloud Customers?

Any organization participating in the development, upkeep, receipt, or transmission of PHI is regarded as a business associate under HIPAA. This includes cloud service companies, whether they provide a hybrid, private, or public cloud.

Covered organizations must ensure their business associate agreements comply with HIPAA before using a business associate’s services (BAA). This will enable companies to guarantee that the same HIPAA security measures apply to their cloud infrastructure to their on-premise systems. However, it is mostly the responsibility of the cloud customer to ensure HIPAA compliance by correctly setting up their cloud infrastructure, checking for compliance, and carrying out any necessary corrections.

No cloud platform, public or private, is 100% HIPAA compliant by default, and this cannot be emphasized enough. Or, to put it more precisely, big public clouds (for example, AWS and Azure) can enable HIPAA compliance, but they can’t provide or ensure it. This is so that compliance is achieved by properly designing the platform (and, eventually, managing every data) rather than having a specific technology or platform.

Consider Amazon Web Services (AWS), the industry leader in public cloud services. AWS complies with all HIPAA security requirements and has a standard BAA that it will sign with healthcare organizations. Everything therein is correct.

A covered entity must accomplish many things to be HIPAA compliant when using AWS. All utilized Amazon services need the relevant access rights to be configured. It will be necessary to implement the proper encryption. The covered entity will need Amazon artifacts to account for access to compliance-related data.

Lastly, it will be necessary to produce reports that ensure compliance regularly.

Architecting your infrastructure for HIPAA compliance on AWS

Let’s identify the HIPAA-compliant AWS services crucial for creating a HIPAA-compliant AWS architecture.

- Securing data

Efficient measures across an organization’s security framework are essential for establishing a well-designed end-to-end security posture. The objective for designers and architects is to build a system that can support resisting possible cyberattacks. Once more, restrictions should be in line with security measures listed in the Security Rule under HIPAA.

- Analyzing Cybersecurity risk in handling ePHI data

Knowing your liabilities within HIPAA is crucial to affixing ePHI within the HIPAA compliance AWS cloud, and an important step is identifying and analyzing cybersecurity risk. There are numerous sources of advice that might help entities in this endeavor.

Covered entities can use a comprehensive security risk assessment tool provided by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) inside the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct this risk assessment. The program offers instructions for determining the present state of risks and safety measures for:

  • Verifying ePHI access that is verified and authorized
  • Monitoring ePHI transmission
  • Ensuring the systems' integrity ePHI
  • Verifying encrypted transmission
  • Maintaining ePHI

As part of its audit program, the OCR has created and made available audit procedures that organizations can utilize to carry out their internal self-audits to comply with HIPAA.

- ePHI through Integrity controls & Encryption for more secure ePHI

The HIPAA Security Guidelines contain explicit implementation specifications for the encryption of ePHI when it is in use, in transit, and at rest. The strategy employed by Deloitte makes use of AWS’s built-in encryption features.

The AWS Key Management Service is one of the many tools and services that AWS provides to enable managing and auditing the encryption of ePHI easier (AWS KMS). Customers can also benefit from the encryption capabilities built into HIPAA-eligible services like AWS Simple Storage Service (S3).

Customers can activate encryption in transit and rest by using TLS (encryption protocol) certificates and AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) for certificate management.

- IAM, MFA, password management, and access authorization controls

The strategies and procedures used to authenticate and authorize certain users to take particular actions are called identity and access management (IAM). The security of HIPAA depends heavily on IAM. Access management tactics and related technological controls are required at the HIPAA compliance AWS infrastructure, operating system, and application layers inside an AWS environment.

To prevent ePHI from being changed or deleted without authorization, the HIPAA Security Rule outlines requirements that might be addressed when implementing authentication and authorization procedures.

- Resiliency

According to HIPAA, covered companies must adhere to the Emergency Access Procedure requirement, which calls for accessibility in any setting where HIPAA is in effect. Covered companies must enable administrative measures, such as a data backup and disaster recovery strategy, to comply with this requirement.

The construction and upkeep of retrievable exact copies of ePHI should be the main focus of this disaster recovery plan for data protection. Maintaining highly accessible systems, keeping data and systems replicated offsite, and giving constant access to both are required.

The contingency plan also needs to consider developing and testing identity and access management restrictions. Even when access to ePHI is required immediately, secure authorization and authentication must be implemented. Customers can create scalable backup and recovery solutions using the resources and capabilities that AWS offers.

How to Achieve HIPAA Compliance using Convox for AWS Services?

Using a Paas like Convox to host your AWS can help you achieve your HIPAA compliance goal faster. The platform enlists HIPAA-eligible AWS services and has all features that you might require. You can even book a demo with Convox HIPAA experts to get full clarity about the subject and procedure. Read more here.