Making a Website HIPAA Compliant – Here’s All You Need to Know about It

Health Practices Website Checklist
Did you know that almost every website is required to be HIPAA compliant? If you’re a healthcare provider in the United States, it’s important to ensure your website follows all of the security guidelines set out by HIPAA.
HIPAA is a set of regulations that govern how patient health information must be protected. If your website collects any data from patients – even indirectly – it needs to be HIPAA compliant. But what does that entail? And how can you make sure your website is compliant? In this blog post, we’ll answer those questions and provide you with all the information you need to make your website HIPAA compliant. Keep reading to learn more!

Challenges in achieving HIPAA compliance

Creating a HIPAA-compliant website involves adhering to complex rules and requirements. These may often be not understood properly by individuals without a strong technical background. However, your website or web forms cannot be classified as HIPAA compliant unless you get all these issues cleared.
According to the HIPAA act, all websites that handle client data through web servers must implement physical, technical and administrative measures mandated by HIPAA to ensure the security and confidentiality of patient data. This is also significant in preventing data breaches that may compromise the integrity of sensitive data.
The smallest of errors can cause compliance issues. It is advisable to hire HIPAA-compliant web hosting providers and web designers with an excellent record in hosting websites for reputed healthcare providers.

HIPAA-related terms you need to know

There are certain terms you must know to clearly understand the significance of HIPAA compliance. Let us take a closer look at some of them.

PHI

Short for Protected Health Information, PHI refers to any healthcare-related, identifiable information about patients stored on electronic media or digital devices. Examples of PHI include:

  • Part or full name of the patient
  • Photographs that reveal the patient’s face
  • Specific location details
  • Phone numbers, fax numbers or email addresses of the patient
  • Health insurance details
  • Social security numbers
  • Biometric details like retina scan or fingerprints

All such information may be part of records maintained by healthcare providers and can possibly be used to identify patients.
Sometimes, clients may request you to remove certain parts of their information permanently from your records. Your website must be versatile enough to accommodate such requests. The information may be required during the course of time the patient continues under treatment or uses a specific medical product. However, if the client switches to another healthcare provider and requests the information in your database to be deleted, you need to have measures in place to erase data from both the website and backup locations.

Privacy rule

This is one of the most integral aspects of creating a HIPAA-compliant website. All organizations handling patient information – healthcare providers and related businesses – are subject to this rule. As per the privacy rule, all these organizations must implement measures to protect the confidential nature of health information.

In addition, the rule also mentions the rights of patients regarding this information. These consist of the right to assess the stored information, access copies of information and request changes or deletion.

BAA

For total HIPAA compliance, all information you store or send to other service providers must be secure at all times. For this reason, if your work with other businesses involves sharing of PHI, you are expected to sign BAAs (Business Associate Agreements) with them.
Even if you have signed BAA with your website hosting provider, it does not imply your information is secure. For instance, this hosting provider may outsource specific aspects of their work to other associates who can, in turn, access your information. Therefore, you need to partner with reputed hosting providers who sign BAAs with all third-party associates.

Encryption

Client information related to healthcare is highly sensitive and therefore deserves a superior level of security and confidentiality. One way to do this is to encrypt medical records as soon as they are uploaded to the site. Switching to the https:// protocol is the first step in this direction. Additionally, you must also consider an advanced data encryption service for all data shared on your website. Request your HIPAA-compliant hosting provider for a reliable encryption service.

HIPAA security rule

This is an extension of the privacy rule. It lays down national standards designed to protect the healthcare information of patients in its electronic version. The rule is applicable to all organizations that create, send, receive or store sensitive information related to patients.
The rule mandates the implementation of necessary physical, technical and administrative measures to preserve the confidentiality of PHI the way it is expected from a HIPAA-compliant website. It is important to seek the services of HIPAA-compliant web hosting providers to ensure that your website adheres to this rule.

Data backup

All client information collected, received or stored as part of your business procedures must be backed up securely. This will help prevent data loss in case of system failure or data breaches. Based on your specific requirements, you may choose from in-house backup solutions or cloud storage. Your web development and hosting provider specializing in medical IT support will be able to suggest viable backup options with the right balance of versatility, security and affordability.

Look for hosting providers offering live support so that your business can bounce back in minutes after data breaches, server issues or other problems that may restrict access to client information.

What you need to make your website HIPAA compliant

There are a number of requirements to become HIPAA compliant. These include but are not limited to:

  • An SSL certificate to secure the website
  • Implementing email encryption that is compliant with HIPAA guidelines
  • Encryption of all web forms
  • Mandating the signing of the BAAs for all third-party web hosting providers
  • Sign up for cyber security solutions from hosting providers
  • Ensuring reliable backup solutions

Making your website HIPAA compliant can seem easy but is actually quite complex. To do it right, it’s best to seek the help of a web designing and hosting provider who specializes in medical IT support and knows the intricacies of HIPAA legislation inside out. Contact us today for more information on ensuring HIPAA compliance for your website and avoiding unnecessary fines.