For practitioners and institutions in the healthcare and medical industry, including medical financiers, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets stringent standards to ensure the privacy, security, and breach notification of protected health information (PHI).

Examples of PHI include:

  • Medical histories
  • Test results
  • Diagnoses
  • Treatment plans
  • Health insurance claims and billing information
  • Prescription information
  • Identifiable information (e.g., names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses)
  • Medical record and account numbers
  • Unique identifying numbers or codes

As a result, healthcare providers are increasingly turning to more secure cloud storage solutions, as ensuring HIPAA compliance is vital to safeguard patient data and avoid costly penalties.

Penalties can be crippling, depending on the nature and severity of the HIPAA violation.

In 2015, for example, Anthem, Inc’s non-compliant practices resulted in a breach which later led to a $16 million fine and a court order to pay $115 million in damages. Their one violation resulted in a series of cyber attacks that impacted the ePHI of 79 million people. 

Another interesting case is that of Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic—they incurred a $750 000 fine for failing to sign a BAA with a third party contractor who was hired to digitize their X-rays in exchange for harvesting the silver from their left-over x-ray film. Had they signed the BAA, the odd exchange wouldn’t have been an issue.

Fines can range from the tens of thousands to tens of millions of dollars, with scores of multi-million dollar penalties on record. 

This post will help you understand what HIPAA compliant cloud storage and transfer is, its benefits, as well as introducing you to one of the best HIPAA cloud storage and transfer solutions on the market—SFTP To Go.

HIPAA compliance basics

What is HIPAA? 

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a comprehensive law that safeguards the privacy and security of identifiable health information.

What are the key rules of HIPAA?

  • Privacy Rule: Establishes national standards for protecting PHI and grants patients control over their health information.
  • Security Rule: Requires covered entities to implement safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic PHI (ePHI).
  • Enforcement Rule: Outlines compliance and investigation procedures, including civil penalties for non-compliance.
  • Breach Notification Rule: Mandates notifying affected individuals and, in some cases, the media, if PHI is breached.

Who does HIPAA apply to?

HIPAA applies to:

  • Covered entities: Health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare providers who electronically transmit health information.
  • Business associates: Individuals or entities that perform functions or services for Covered Entities involving access to PHI. This includes subcontractors that create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI on behalf of another Business Associate.

What is the HITECH Act? 

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act promotes the use of electronic health records and addresses privacy and security concerns related to electronic health information.

What is the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule? 

The HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule implements extensive modifications to HIPAA to align it with HITECH Act provisions, ensuring comprehensive protection for health information.

Understanding HIPAA compliant cloud storage and transfer

HIPAA-compliant cloud storage and transfer refers to services that meet the strict requirements set forth by HIPAA for storing and managing PHI. These services tend to include secure transfer and access protocols such as SFTP and S3, but there is more to it than just the most secure protocols.

The HIPAA requirements for healthcare data management include data encryption, access controls, audit trails, and regular security assessments.

These measures ensure that PHI (Protected Health Information) is protected both in transit and at rest, preventing unauthorized access and data breaches which can cost companies millions and cost patients even more.

To achieve HIPAA compliance, cloud storage and transfer providers must also sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with their healthcare clients. This agreement legally binds the cloud service provider to comply with HIPAA regulations and safeguards.

It makes sense to opt for solutions that offer all of these services in one, that need neither be set up, hosted, or maintained at your expense. 

Benefits of HIPAA-compliant cloud storage and transfer

  1. Enhanced security and compliance: HIPAA-compliant cloud storage and transfer ensures that PHI is handled with the highest levels of security. This includes encryption protocols such as AES-256, multi-factor authentication, and detailed audit logs to monitor access and usage.
  2. Scalability and flexibility: Cloud storage and management solutions offer scalability, allowing healthcare providers to adjust their storage needs as they grow without significant upfront investments. This flexibility is ideal for managing large volumes of patient data.
  3. Improved accessibility and collaboration: HIPAA compliant cloud transfer and storage solutions can let healthcare providers access and share patient information securely from any location, enhancing inter-departmental and inter-facility collaboration and improving patient care outcomes.
  4. Disaster recovery and backup: Even with all the necessary measures in place, contingency plans are essential in healthcare. Cloud storage providers often offer comprehensive disaster recovery and backup solutions. This ensures that patient data is not lost in the event of a system failure, natural disaster, or cyberattack.
  5. Regulatory compliance and updates: HIPAA-compliant cloud storage providers stay on top of developments to update their security protocols and comply with evolving regulations. This means that healthcare organizations remain compliant with the latest standards without needing to manage these updates internally.

SFTP To Go: your HIPAA-compliant cloud storage solution

The good news is that SFTP To Go offers all of the above in one clean, cloud-based, fully-managed transfer and storage solution. SFTP offers a convenient and highly secure  web portal that’s accessible from anywhere in the world and intuitive even for users with limited IT skills.

SFTP To Go brings a robust and secure healthcare data management solution designed to meet the rigorous requirements of HIPAA compliance. Here’s how SFTP To Go ensures the protection of PHI:

  1. Data encryption: All communications are encrypted with AES-256 bit encryption using HTTPS, SFTP, and FTPS protocols. At rest, files are encrypted on Amazon S3 with server-side encryption.
  2. Privacy and intrusion protection: SFTP To Go endpoints only allow access to the necessary ports for SFTP, FTPS, and HTTPS. Multi-factor authentication can be enabled for administrators, and strong password policies are enforced for all users. Additionally, inbound network rules allow IP safelisting for better security.
  3. Business associate agreement (BAA): SFTP To Go signs a BAA with healthcare providers, ensuring legal compliance and outlining responsibilities for protecting PHI. This agreement is a central compliance factor for entities and business associates handling sensitive patient data.
  4. Storage durability and high availability: Built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), SFTP To Go makes the most of Amazon S3's durable and highly available infrastructure. AWS guarantees 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability—so SFTP To Go does too, making it a reliable choice for healthcare organizations looking for HIPAA compliant patient data management.
  5. Stringent security standards: SFTP To Go applies strict security standards, including continuous vulnerability assessment, annual pen tests, security measures such as auditing, access management, the use of web application firewalls, and more .
  6. Regional data hosting: Healthcare providers can choose to host their data in specific regions, such as the United States, to comply with regional data protection regulations.

hipaa compliant cloud storage cloud data management sftp to go

In conclusion

Selecting an HIPAA-compliant cloud storage provider like SFTP To Go is the first step in helping your healthcare provider service or institution to ensure the security of sensitive patient information.

With its multi-layered security measures, compliance with HIPAA regulations, and reliable scalable infrastructure, SFTP To Go is a comprehensive solution designed to support modern healthcare providers. 

If you’d like to learn what our healthcare clients think about SFTP To Go, read our customer success stories.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is HIPAA compliant cloud storage?

HIPAA compliant cloud storage ensures that sensitive patient data is stored securely according to HIPAA regulations, using encryption, access controls, and audit trails. Learn more about SFTP To Go's HIPAA compliance.

How does cloud storage ensure HIPAA compliance?

Cloud storage providers must implement strict security measures, such as AES-256 encryption, multi-factor authentication, and regular security audits. They also sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with healthcare providers. See how SFTP To Go meets these requirements.

Why is HIPAA compliant cloud storage important for healthcare?

It protects sensitive patient information from unauthorized access and data breaches, ensuring compliance with federal regulations and avoiding hefty fines. Discover SFTP To Go's secure cloud storage solutions.

Should small healthcare practices use HIPAA compliant cloud storage?

Yes, HIPAA compliant cloud storage is scalable and can be used by healthcare organizations of all sizes to securely manage patient data. Find out how SFTP To Go can help your practice.

What features should I look for in HIPAA compliant cloud storage?

Look for data encryption, access controls, audit logs, multi-factor authentication, and the ability to sign a BAA. Explore the features of SFTP To Go.

How do I know if a cloud storage provider is HIPAA compliant?

Ensure the provider offers a BAA and has implemented all required HIPAA security measures. Regular security audits and compliance certifications are also key indicators. Learn more about SFTP To Go's compliance.