Off-site data storage centers help maintain HIPAA compliance.

Maintaining HIPAA compliance through off-site data storage

Stephen Perkins

The Affordable Care Act has tightened HIPAA compliance standards by requiring healthcare providers to ensure electronic patient health data is completely secure and protected.

With the anticipated influx of healthcare data from new enrollees, providers will need to do more in order to maintain and abide by robust data protection requirements. This could come at a price – both figuratively and literally – due to the lack of adequate storage capacity and security barriers currently put in place by insurers.

Whether from natural disasters, cyberattacks or theft, medical offices are responsible for any patient data that is lost or stolen. Violating HIPAA compliance rules could result in criminal and civil charges, as well as hefty fines.

One blatant example of failing to ensure proper data protection for patient information is the case of Advocate Health Care in Park Ridge, Ill. Four unencrypted laptops containing personal health information, including Social Security numbers for more than 4 million people, were stolen from one of its facilities. Advocate was hit with a class action lawsuit – and continues to face civil charges – for failing to take the necessary precautions to safeguard patients' data. As a result, the provider has faced fines and was required to provide identify theft protection for all those affected.

To prevent such violations, off-site data storage centers through managed service providers have become a paragon for meeting compliance requirements. Storing copies of patient information in secure data centers that use high-level encryption greatly mitigates the risks associated with theft or damage, and offers simple disaster recovery and instant access from any location 24/7. Aside from helping maintain HIPAA compliance, utilizing vendors' services allows for automatic backups to keep information up to date. Without requiring expensive software and equipment, off-site data backup and storage solutions present an affordable and reliable data protection option.

Categories: Data Compliance, Data Protection