For all HIPAA-compliant businesses, secure file sharing is not an if, but, or a maybe – it is an absolute must. Maintaining HIPAA compliance always is essential for avoiding fines, protecting your business, and securing the data security of your customers and patients.
PHI, or Protected Health Information, consists of all the sensitive data you have that relates to your patients' past, present, or future health condition.
It includes patient data pertaining to any medical services they have received or may receive, as well as their healthcare payments and sensitive patient information.
In today's world, most, if not all of this information, will be stored in digital format. For this, the term that's used is “electronic protected health information” or ePHI – and it falls under HIPAA regulations, too.
There is a component of HIPAA called the Security Rule, which requires all HIPAA-compliant businesses to protect ePHI via appropriate administrative firewalls, secure access, physical deterrents, and technical safeguards to preserve its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule regulates who has access to all forms of PHI – including ePHI.
The Privacy Rule requires organizations to implement policies and procedures, which limit the use and disclosure of PHI to the minimum number of people necessary. This ensures data protection any unauthorized access attempts.
HIPAA Compliant Secure File Sharing
What do these Rules mean when it comes to secure file transfer or file sharing solutions?
Well, with regards to the Security Rule, administrative safeguards concern the policies and procedures – including staff training programs – you have in place to ensure the adequate management and maintenance of ePHI protection.
Physical safeguards are those that restrict access to your physical premises (security systems, etc.) and any servers, computer equipment or mobile devices where sensitive healthcare data is stored.
Technical safeguards, meanwhile, protect ePHI via digital means, such as access controls, user authentication and data encryption.
What does this all look like in the Healthcare Industry? Here's what you need to do to ensure HIPAA-compliance for secure file sharing and maintaining HIPAA compliance.
Read Secure File Sharing: What You Need to Know
Encrypt Your Files
When it comes to HIPAA compliance file transfers, encryption is critical. Put simply, encrypting your files renders them unreadable and therefore unusable to unauthorized individuals.
Guidance from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) states that ePHI data must be encrypted both at rest and in transit.
File encryption requires user authentication to view, download, edit or delete information contained within the files.
Encrypted file transfers means that your sensitive files are protected from the moment they are sent, until the moment it is received and stored.
Access Controls and User Authentication
Beyond encryption, it's important you have adequate security measures in place to manage access to sensitive files.
As well as physical safeguards, you must ensure that every member of staff on your network is granted unique user IDs so you can be certain only authorized parties have access to your confidential files.
In addition, you should enable two factor authentication to confirm the identity of every user who tries to log into your system.
In this way, even if a member of staff's login credentials are compromised, the multi-factor authentication safeguard provides an additional layer of security to protect patient data against remote attacks.
Staff Training and HIPAA Compliance
HIPAA is extremely complex and best practices for compliance change regularly.
As such, no employee who deals with ePHI should begin work without undergoing training to teach them how to handle protected files – and that training should be ongoing as it is unlikely that a single training course will be sufficient to cover all requirements.
HIPAA training should cover everything from password policies to HIPAA Rules to phishing scam awareness.
The more informed your employees are, the better your business and your ePHI will be protected.
Use a HIPAA-Compliant File Sharing Service
The absolute best way to ensure your files are always safe and protected is to use a HIPAA compliant file sharing solution.
Not all solutions are HIPAA-compliant, however, so caution must be exercised when selecting a HIPAA compliant solution provider.
HIPAA applies not only to HIPAA-compliant businesses themselves, but their business associates (BAs) as well.
This means that any file sharing solution provider you work with is considered a business associate and is therefore equally obligated to comply with HIPAA Rules.
The HHS stipulates that you must enter into business associate agreements (BAA) with any BA that will be creating, receiving, maintaining, or transmitting ePHI on your behalf and that the BA otherwise complies with HIPAA file sharing Rules.
Specifically, the BAA “contractually requires the business associate to appropriately safeguard the ePHI, including implementing the requirements of the Security Rule.” In other words, any secure sharing service provider that is not prepared to sign a BAA is out of bounds for HIPAA-compliant businesses.
Some popular file sharing services, such as Apple's private cloud "iCloud", will not sign BAAs with HIPAA covered entities and so should not be used.
Others, like Amazon Web Services and Google Drive are not HIPAA-compliant by default, so you must employ best practices at every level to ensure you do not violate HIPAA Rules should you use these services.
Other popular file transfer methods include services like WeTransfer, though secure, are not HIPAA compliant at all and so must be avoided for sharing confidential files.
Instead, a purpose-built HIPAA-compliant file sharing solution such as WisperMSG from Central Data Storage should be used.
WisperMSG from Central Data Storage
Businesses in specialist industries require specialist solutions.
Central Data Storage’s WisperMSG for encrypted sharing provides top-level encrypted file sharing and secure messaging for your business, making communicating with your clients, teams and partners completely secure, easy and 100% compliant with HIPAA requirements.
Our solution has beyond military-grade security features, protecting you against data threats such as ransomware, cyberattacks, and lost and stolen devices.
With end-to-end 448-bit encryption, secure private messaging, secure attachments and automatic chat and file expiration or archiving, WisperMSG from Central Data Storage is the secure file sharing service you need to ensure HIPAA compliance and safeguard your business.
Want to learn more about the benefits of our fully supported solution in WisperMSG? Just call 1-888-907-1227 or email email@example.com.