HIPAA Technical Safeguards

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IT Security And HIPAA Technical Safeguards

Does your healthcare organization need to be HIPAA Compliant? The HIPAA Cybersecurity and IT Security Services that are implemented by Wheelhouse IT can protect your practice from unnoticed threats. Protecting your practice from HIPAA violations is critical if you are a healthcare provider.

If your practice and patients aren’t protected by the most recent HIPAA Compliance and technology, you could be putting your livelihood at risk. Security breaches and unauthorized access to health information and electronic patient health information can result in heavy fines, as well as loss of business.  When it comes to data security and technology management, Wheelhouse IT can make sure your practice be HIPAA cybersecurity and IT security compliant, while also ensuring that it’s employing best practices to reduce risks.

In this article, we discuss the best practices for technical safeguards for HIPAA, focusing on cybersecurity and IT security.

HIPAA violations and the compromise of protected health information (PHI) remain a threat and a risk for covered entities and their business partners. The goal of HIPAA is to help you reduce the risks to your organization and any stored or transmitted information, even though it may appear confusing and numerous at first glance. The Technical Safeguards detailed in the HIPAA Security Rule are one of these requirements.

The HIPAA Security Rule requires three kinds of safeguards that organizations must implement: administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. We’ll focus on technical safeguards which outline the protections that organizations need to be taking to protect electronic protected health information (ePHI). 

What are Technical Safeguards?

HIPAA technical safeguards protect PHI and have become a major part of any HIPAA Privacy program. Technical safeguards are important due to the advances in technology (assistive technology) in the health care industry. They are key elements that help to maintain the safety of EPHI as the internet changes. One of the greatest challenges of healthcare organizations face is that of protecting electronic protected health information (EPHI). This would include the protection of electronic health records, from various internal and external risks with current technology. The answer to the question, What are Technical Safeguards? They are the tools covered entities to use to protect ePHI.

There are several overarching standards discussed within the HIPAA technical safeguards:

  • Access Control – giving users rights and/or privileges to access and perform functions using information systems, applications, compatible technology, programs, or files.
  • Audit Controls – hardware, software, and/or procedural mechanisms that record and examine information system activity that contains or use ePHI.
  • Integrity Controls – implementing policies and procedures for ePHI protection against alteration or destruction.
  • Person or Entity Authentication – ensuring a person’s identity  and confidentiality of communications (authentication to employees) before giving him or her ePHI access.
  • Transmission Security – guarding against unauthorized ePHI access when data is transmitted over an electronic communications network.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. Using cybersecurity to protect EPHI is a key feature of Technical Safeguards in the Security Rule of HIPAA. Technical safeguards are key protections due to constant technological advancements in the health care industry.

They are key elements that help to maintain the safety of EPHI as the internet changes. One of the greatest challenges healthcare organizations face is that of protecting electronic protected health information (EPHI). This includes the protection of electronic health records, from various internal and external risks. To best reduce risks to EPHI security, covered entities must implement Technical Safeguards.

There are many risks, and these come in various forms. Among these is malware erasing your entire system and access rights, a cyber-attacker breaching your electronic information systems and altering files, a cyber-hijacker or unauthorized users using your computer, control access, and other electronic mechanisms to attack others, or an attacker stealing or freezing your data in return for money. There is no guarantee that even with the best precautions and technical policies you will prevent this, but there are steps you can take to minimize the chances in your electronic networks.

Reasonable Safeguards

Reasonable Safeguards for PHI are precautions that a prudent person must take to prevent disclosure of Protected Health Information by health care providers. To protect all forms of PHI, verbal, paper, and electronic, providers must apply these safeguards. They help prevent unauthorized uses or disclosures of PHI. In addition, safeguards must be part of every privacy compliance plan. Organizations must share this with all members of the organization.

An organization may face multiple challenges as it attempts to protect the essential element: the EPHI. These issues must all be considered as they may originate from inside or outside the organization. Any organization needs to perform a full risk analysis and addressable specification to protect the organization from such a variety of threats. We present several examples of cyberthreats in healthcare you must be ready to address. This will help you as you develop your Security Program. First, we must understand the Technical Safeguards of the Security Rule.

Practicing Good Cyber Hygiene

When it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important to know what to look out for, tracking user identity, how to report any potential threats and security risks, and most importantly how to keep your practice and your patient data safe by maintaining good security standards. Recently, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the United Kingdom National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a joint release featuring additional guidance on how to spot potential threats from user activity and take important technical security measures. Important tips for safeguarding your practice’s security measures during this time of increased risk include:

  • Make it harder for attackers and unauthorized persons to gain access to your users.
  • Know how to identify and report any suspected threats.
  • Protect your organization from the effects of undetected scams
  • Respond quickly and effectively to any incidents that do occur

There’s a lot of good ‘cyber hygiene’ out there, but here are a few top tips to keep your practice operations clean:

  • Secure systems that enable remote access
  • Ensure that employees have updated all anti-malware and antivirus software programs and software infrastructure on their devices
  • Encrypt any emails and electronic systems that include PHI or any other personal or financial information
  • Properly dispose of any PHI both electronic and paper when working off-site
  • Remind employees of appropriate access to PHI and implement controls such as applying additional protections for COVID-19 health records
  • Ensure that PHI is only accessed when necessary, especially on less secure wireless networks  and electronic procedures such as those used when working from home

Your Trusted Cybersecurity & IT Security Services Partner  

As opposed to large corporations, healthcare organizations lack sophisticated backup systems and other forms of resilience, making them prime targets for ransomware attacks. Unintentionally opened email attachments have become a common entry point for ransomware attacks. The malicious code spreads throughout the computer system, locking and encrypting data folders and the operating system.

Wheelhouse IT Cyber Security & IT Security Services assist organizations with HIPAA regulatory standards. HIPAA requires that patient data be stored securely, access to the data be controlled and monitored and that healthcare organizations have the policies, procedures, and systems needed to ensure compliance. Our team will Implement and govern your HIPAA Security Program to ensure your compliance daily. Rescuing risk of data loss for inform collect, store, and costly regulatory fines. Contact us today!

Microsoft Teams HIPAA Compliance

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Is Microsoft Teams HIPAA Compliant In 2021?

Microsoft Teams is HIPAA-compliant in terms of security, but HIPAA-covered businesses must engage in a business partner agreement with Microsoft that covers the Microsoft Teams platform before it may be used in conjunction with any ePHI. While Microsoft Teams free or paid is compliant with standards, you’ll need a Microsoft 365 account and a premium edition of Microsoft Teams to perform compliance, obtain a report, and do any settings or monitoring.

Are you concerned about Microsoft Teams HIPAA compliance? Are you looking to achieve better HIPAA compliance with services like Microsoft Teams? Wheelhouse IT can help you! Wheelhouse IT is an MSP service provider that can help ensure full compliance with HIPAA requirements and provide meaningful observations to help achieve your organization’s security, privacy, and compliance goals and objectives. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, security compliance has become very important – especially for health care providers.  In this article, we discuss Microsoft Teams HIPAA Compliance in 2021 and its effect on compliance safeguards, compliance requirements, and the overall range of security features it brings to the table.

HIPAA compliance is a must for any healthcare organization. If your company deals with health-related and personally identifiable information, you’ll want to be sure all data is protected. Compliance, on the other hand, is a complex issue, especially in light of recent technological advancements.

As health-related data has increasingly become digitized, HIPAA compliance has become necessary to improve security and privacy. HIPAA compliance guarantees privacy for Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI must be secure and protected.

Understandably, this leads to complications when it comes to the management and maintenance of health-related data. How do organizations discuss health-related information while still making sure that it’s secure? How does a health organization make it possible for those who need the information to be able to access it, while protecting it from others?

Under HIPAA regulations, HIPAA imposes standards in five categories: 

  • Admin safeguards
  • Physical safeguards
  • Technical safeguards
  • Organizational requirements
  • Documentation requirements (policies and procedures)

Using these standards, healthcare organizations are required to: 

  • Ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all PHI
  • Regularly review system activity records
  • Establish, document, review, and modify user access
  • Monitor login attempts and report any discrepancies
  • Identify, respond and document security incidents
  • Obtain assurances from vendors before exchanging PHI

HIPAA Privacy Rule: Compliance Obligations

The following information is considered to be protected under the HIPAA guidelines:

  • Patient’s name, address, birth date, and Social Security number;
  • Individual’s physical or mental health condition;
  • Any care provided to the individual; and
  • Information that concerns the payment for the care provided when the patient is identified or when the patient has a reasonable chance of being identified.

HIPAA Security Rule

The HIPAA Security Rule sets national standards for securing patient data that are stored or transferred electronically. To that end, the HIPAA Security Rule requires health care organizations to implement both physical and electronic safeguards to ensure the secure passage, maintenance, and reception of protected health information (PHI).

Additional Items Needed for HIPAA Compliance

Enabling security features to operate Microsoft Teams in a HIPAA-compliant manner and having a signed, current BAA with Microsoft are good first steps to ensure HIPAA compliance for your healthcare organization. Other steps you can take include:

  • Appoint a HIPAA compliance, privacy, and/or security officer to direct and monitor your HIPAA compliance program.
  • Know the required annual audits and assessments for your healthcare business and conduct those as required.
  • Conduct and document regular HIPAA training sessions for all employees. This should include reporting procedures for breaches.
  • Set up a remediation plan, and test, review and update it at least once a year.
  • Review your BAA with Microsoft each year to ensure it is up to date.

HIPAA Compliant Software Usage

Under HIPAA, software companies that “touch” (create, receive, maintain, or transmit) PHI are considered business associates. For HIPAA compliant use, software must have technical and administrative safeguards securing the protected health information (PHI) that is transmitted, stored, received, maintained, or created through them. Additionally, there must be a signed business associate agreement between a covered entity and the business associate before the platform can be utilized in conjunction with PHI. 

However, no software can be fully HIPAA compliant; it is up to the end-user to ensure that they are using the platform in a HIPAA compliant manner. 

 Is Microsoft Teams HIPAA Compliant: Safeguards

Microsoft Teams has the following safeguards in place securing PHI:

  • Access controls – provides users with unique login credentials, ensuring that PHI is only accessible to authorized users.
  • Single sign-on (SSO) – enables users to secure access for related systems with one set of login credentials (i.e. Microsoft Teams, Office 365, etc.).
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)requires users to utilize multiple credentials to access data (i.e. username and password, biometrics, security questions, etc.). This ensures that the user is who they appear to be.
  • Audit logs – track access to PHI to ensure adherence to the minimum necessary standard.
  • Encryption – converts PHI into a format that can only be read with a decryption key, preventing unauthorized access to data at rest and data in transit.

There are specific ways to maintain HIPAA compliance with Microsoft Teams:

  • Restrict data sharing and communication to MS Teams. The more information flows through MS Teams, the better and more thoroughly it can be protected. Teams can integrate with the rest of Office 365 which provides similar protections.
  • Review and restrict permissions for users. Users should always be granted only the permissions they strictly need to do their jobs to help minimize business risk. Further, these permissions should be regularly audited, and they should be removed immediately when employees leave.
  • Digitize and consolidate all data. Having paper data is now a significant security concern. Paper information should be regularly shredded, and all data should be consolidated within the Teams environment.
  • Regularly audit compliance. Regular audits can identify any security gaps in the system, as well as properly closing them.

Requirements for a HIPAA Business Associate contract

A compliant HIPAA Business Associate contract should:

  • Describe how the BA is permitted and required to use PHI;
  • Require that the BA not use or disclose PHI, other than as specified in the contract or as required by law;
  • Require the business associate to use appropriate security measures to ensure PHI is used in accordance with the contract terms;
  • Require the covered entity to take reasonable steps to resolve any breach by the HIPAA BA if and when they become aware of one (if this is unsuccessful, the covered entity is required to terminate the contract with the business associate); and
  • Report the event to the OCR if terminating the contract with the business associate is impossible.

Compliance with HIPAA regulations is critical for the safety of your patient data and your network. Wheelhouse IT can assist you in complying with HIPAA regulations, as well as implement strategies to safeguard your network and data. As a result, your HIPAA compliance is never in doubt thanks to the expertise of our team.

To find out more, contact Wheelhouse IT today to discuss your HIPAA compliance needs and see how we can help customize a solution that best serves your healthcare organization. 

Let us know how we can help your organization comply with HIPAA today!

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage

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HIPAA compliant cloud storage is more than just a buzzword for healthcare administrators. It’s an essential requirement in today’s digital world that businesses need to be aware of and prepared for if they’re going to succeed in the highly competitive industry. 

The implementation of this new technology has created a whole new set of issues with data security, privacy, and compliance. Cloud data storage providers are well-versed in these matters and take every precaution necessary to ensure their clients’ needs are met by adapting their services accordingly. 

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage in 2021: What Is It?

A HIPAA-compliant cloud storage solution includes all of the necessary safeguards to protect ePHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability. The covered entity is responsible for developing policies and procedures governing the use of HIPAA-compliant secure cloud storage and cloud environment for this data.

If you’re looking for a HIPAA compliant cloud storage service, then you’ve come to the right place. At Wheelhouse IT, we are experts in HIPAA compliant cloud storage. We offer secure, reliable, and scalable solutions that are easy to use and manage. With our expertise in healthcare compliance, we can help your organization meet its regulatory requirements while reducing costs and improving productivity.

Our team of experts will work with you to design a solution that meets your needs – whether it’s storing patient data or just backing up files from your computer at home. Get started today by contacting us. Contact Wheelhouse IT today for more information on how we can help protect your data! In this article, we cover HIPAA-compliant storage and explain your responsibility in making your cloud storage compliant.

What is HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage in 2021?

Cloud computing solutions provide undeniable cloud benefits for storing and accessing electronic health records. File storage in the cloud is accessible anytime and anywhere from any device using a direct messaging protocol, which makes it easy to share critical medical information between healthcare professionals. But are the security measures of cloud storage and cloud computing services secure enough to store, access, and transfer sensitive personal and medical records?

For clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations, ensuring that patients’ medical information stays private isn’t just an ethical issue, it’s a legal one as well. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides clear rules about the storage, sharing of medical data, and making cloud data safe. Any organization that handles health records is required to be in compliance. Therefore, before moving health-related data to cloud storage, healthcare organizations need to make sure that the software they plan to use is HIPAA compliant.

The key provisions of HIPAA include:

  • HIPAA Privacy Rules — Regulate how an individual’s health information may be disclosed or used
  • HIPAA Security RulesSpecify standards for safeguarding and protecting electronically created, processed, accessed, or stored healthcare information
  • The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule — Requires organizations to notify individuals whose personal health information has been exposed and regulates the process of notification
  • The HIPAA Omnibus Rule — Clarifies definitions, procedures, and policies; provides a checklist for Business Associates; and implements the requirements of the Health Education Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act
  • The HIPAA Enforcement Rule — Governs investigations following a data breach and states the penalties imposed on the responsible party

Types of Security Safeguards

The HIPAA Security Rule covers three types of safeguards for protected health information:

  • Physical safeguards — HIPAA requires developing policies for the use and positioning of workstations and procedures for use of mobile devices, as well as implementing facility access controls, if applicable.
  • Technical safeguards — HIPAA requires implementing activity logs and controls, as well as a means of access control. Compliance might require mechanisms for authenticating information and tools for encryption.
  • Administrative safeguards — HIPAA requires conducting risk assessments, implementing risk management policies, developing a contingency plan, and restricting third-party access to information.

HIPAA Compliance and Cloud Storage

No cloud server is HIPAA-compliant right out of the box, but there are ways that IT experts can step in and make the cloud compliant with the needs of covered entities.

Organizations should keep in mind that there is no official HIPAA or HITECH certification, and no government or industry certifies HIPAA compliance for cloud services. That means it’s up to the covered entity and the cloud service provider to ensure adherence to the law’s requirements. The cloud service must review HIPAA regulations and possibly update its products, policies, and procedures to support a covered entity’s HIPAA compliance goals.

How does HIPAA apply to cloud storage?

When a covered entity stores PHI in the cloud, the cloud storage service is considered by law to be a business associate of the covered entity. To be HIPAA compliant, therefore, a Business Associate Agreement has to be in place. That agreement needs to state that the cloud service provider shall:

  • Secure the data transmitted to the cloud
  • Store the data securely
  • Provide a system that allows careful control of data access
  • Record logs of all activity, including both successful and failed attempts at access

A HIPAA-compliant cloud storage incorporates all the required controls to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI. The covered entity is responsible for developing policies and procedures covering the use of HIPAA secure cloud storage for this information.

Wheelhouse IT is an expert IT firm that can help you with everything HIPAA compliant cloud storage.

The Most Popular Cloud Storage Services that Support HIPAA and HITECH

Although not all of their versions will be compliant, several popular cloud storage services support HIPAA and the HITECH Act. They include:

G Suite and Google Drive

BAA is an addition to the regular G Suite Agreement offered by Google. Despite not being 100% HIPAA compliant, several helpful Google applications fall under HIPAA criteria concerning the storage and distribution of ePHI.

Your Google Drive files, such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms, as well as Gmail and Calendar, may all be set up for HIPAA compliance. It should be noted, however, that Google Contacts, as well as non-core Google properties like YouTube and Blogger, are not HIPAA compliant and hence cannot be included in a BAA.

Microsoft OneDrive and E5

Microsoft’s Online Service Terms automatically provide a Business Associate Agreement. The agreement is available for OneDrive for Business, Azure, Azure Government, Cloud App Security, and Office 365, among others. Covered services include email, file storage, and calendars. Microsoft also provides data loss prevention tools. Microsoft’s Enterprise E5 License offers the most robust security features the company has available. The package also includes advanced security management for assessing risk.

Box Enterprise and Elite

Box Enterprise and Elite accounts include access monitoring, reporting, and audit trails for users and content. The service also provides granular permissions or authorizations. Box can securely share data through a direct messaging protocol and allows secure viewing of DICOM files, including X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

Dropbox Business

Dropbox Business offers a BAA for covered entities and can be configured to offer HIPAA-compliant cloud storage. The service provides a variety of administrative controls, including user access review and user activity reports. It also allows for the review and removal of linked devices and enables two-step authentication for additional security.

Essential Security Features for HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA requires a number of security features from services that work with covered entities. The cloud storage services mentioned all allow for a combination of the following security configurations:

  • A HIPAA-compliant cloud storage must offer two-step authentication or single sign-on and encryption of transferred ePHI.
  • All devices used to access or send ePHI must be able to encrypt messages to be sent outside the firewall and decrypt the messages received. All encryption must meet NIST standards.
  • Configuration of file sharing permissions allows covered entities to implement a permission-based system that limits unauthorized user access. The controls must be configured correctly to be effective, including two-step authentication, secure passwords, and secure file-sharing procedures to protect data from unauthorized access.
  • Account activity monitoring requires you to review access logs regularly to ensure you can spot improper activity promptly. Solutions like Netwrix Auditor help you gain visibility into business activities in the cloud. Netwrix Auditor reports on both access events and changes, including changes to content, security settings, and mailbox settings.
  • Data classification is essential for grouping and protecting information based on sensitivity level. Netwrix Data Classification provides predefined taxonomies that are easy to customize, classify data accurately, and automate critical workflows to improve data security.
  • A cloud drive cannot be made HIPAA compliant unless you properly configure security controls and monitor activity around data stored in the system. To ensure your organization’s cloud storage service stays compliant, be sure to regularly perform risk assessments and develop strict cybersecurity policies and procedures.

Which cloud services are not considered HIPAA-compliant?

Some cloud services cannot be made HIPAA-compliant for various reasons. Apple and iCloud, for example, cannot be HIPAA-compliant because they don’t offer a BAA for covered entities. Other services fail to provide essential integrated security capabilities, such as data classification, and, therefore, cannot be used to store ePHI.

Wheelhouse IT: Experts In HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage Provider

HIPAA compliant cloud storage is a must for healthcare providers. Wheelhouse IT can help you with your compliance needs. We offer the best in HIPAA compliant cloud storage, so you don’t have to worry about security or privacy issues. Our team of experts will make sure that all of your data is safe and secure.

You deserve peace of mind when it comes to storing sensitive information like patient records and health insurance information. And we know how important this is. Let us take care of your compliance needs so you can focus on what really matters – caring for patients and providing them with the best possible service.

Contact Wheelhouse IT today to learn more about how we can help protect your company from costly fines or, worse yet, lawsuits!