Data Centers and HIPAA Compliance
There have been questions about what role a data center plays when it comes to HIPAA. We want to address what requirements and obligations data centers have when working with clients in the healthcare industry.
First of all, what is HIPAA? The acronym stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, enacted to protect the health information of patients. When you visit a doctor’s office or the emergency room at your local hospital, all the people seeing your medical history have signed some sheet of paper, promising to keep your information private. This means to disclose healthcare information, they must have your permission (or authorization from the proper authorities in cases of child abuse, etc.). HIPAA also covers how physical and electronic data is handled and secured. Healthcare entities must backup their data and have a disaster recovery plan in place. This is where data centers come in.
The Health Information and Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was enacted on February 17, 2009. This Act requires covered entities to disclose breaches in Protected Health Information (PHI). The covered entities and their business associates that “access, maintain, retain, modify, record, store, destroy, or otherwise hold, use, or disclose unsecured PHI” are required to notify the Department of Health and Human Services or any breaches. The business associates must notify the covered entity of a breach who in turn notifies the individuals involved (patients) and the HHS if more than 500 individuals were affected. From the statement above, data centers like Data Cave, would be considered a business associate.
The problem is there is much to speculate on what this actually means. Some data centers use HIPAA compliance as a marketing tool. Let me make something clear, there is no certification for HIPAA. A data center can be HIPAA compliant, which is what we at Data Cave consider ourselves. Some pay an outside source to come in, look around, and put their stamp of approval on the facility. For Data Cave, meeting HIPAA compliance means limiting people with access to equipment, including our own staff. This also means notifying the proper channels when someone has been near a healthcare entity’s equipment. With most healthcare companies, they are going to want to manage their own equipment, which means our staff wouldn’t need to touch it anyway. However, for a data center doing managed services, facility staff would be responsible. In that case the facility would enter into an agreement with the customer to maintain confidentiality. In the event of a breach, whether virtual or physical, a data center would notify the customer (the covered entity) who would, in turn, notify the HHS if applicable.
In other words, no one can claim HIPAA certification. To take it a step further, the essence of a data center is to be secure; so in that case, aren’t we all HIPAA compliant?
To find out more about Data Cave and HIPAA compliance, call us at 866-514-2283 or Contact Us via our website.