HIPAA Compliant Database: the requirements and who needs to meet them

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There is an urgent need for keeping data secure using a HIPAA compliant database – especially if it involves the personal health information (PHI) of patients who expect, and trust, their most intimate medical details will be kept away from prying eyes.

Unfortunately, there has been a sharp rise in the amount of medical data theft as hackers – who happen to be the majority of perpetrators – find that this particular digital loot has become increasingly lucrative.

Interesting fact: your medical records, and any related data, are now worth more to hackers than is your credit card data.

Right now, the best way to win this battle is by storing PHI in a secure HIPAA compliant database that helps prevent data theft before it happens.

What is PHI?

As the name suggests, personal health information, PHI for short, is data about, or related to, the health of a patient which can be traced back to an individual’s identity. In other words, this data not only tells everything about the health conditions of patients, but also identifies the patients themselves.

The PHI data could include:

  • Names of patients or that of their doctors, family members, donors, legal representatives, and anyone else involved in their medical treatments
  • Account numbers, record numbers, registration numbers or any other unique sets of alpha-numeric identifiers
  • Address information of the patients’ residences, places of work, treatment centers, etc.
  • Digital contact information – this could be their physical addresses or digital ones like their email addresses, login IDs or usernames
  • Biometric or media files that could be used to physically identify the patients in real life – photos and videos would be good examples here

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is an Act passed by Congress with the intention of:

  • Improving data flow – stating how PHI data should be stored, shared, and used efficiently
  • Ensuring security – laying out the ground rules for the protection of said data, and
  • Enabling broader healthcare insurance coverage – allowing for all workers and their families to be covered, be they employed, unemployed or between jobs

What are HIPAA database requirements for PHI?

According to the rules, HIPAA database requirements specify that PHI data should be protected using methods that include:

  • Security – whether it is using software, hardware or physical methods, the data should always be kept secure
  • Encryption – the data should be rendered undecipherable to unauthorized users; the best way to do that is using encryption of PHI data at rest, in motion, and in use
  • Privacy – the only people who have access to PHI should be the patients themselves and authorized users
  • Stopping identifiers from being shared – in cases where the data is required for research purposes, for example, it should be stripped of all uniquely identifying fields

Who must be HIPAA compliant and why?

Originally, any business that directly handles PHI was expected to use a HIPAA compliant database. These entities include the likes of health plans, healthcare providers, and healthcare clearing houses.

According to HIPAA, “associated businesses” also need to meet these requirements. A typical business that falls in this category would be one that plays a “supportive role” to a business that directly handles PHI data. Examples here would include sub-contractors, IT support business, and retained legal offices.

In 2009, the list of businesses was expanded to include banks and other financial institutions that handled payments and transactions related to patients’ medical treatments.

Non-compliance is not a choice

Now, any business that thinks it can simply ignore the HIPAA database requirements should be forewarned that it would be an expensive mistake and could end up breaking their bank. In fact, even the first mistake could be a costly one.

A good lesson can be learned from institutions that had to face hefty fines of up to $50,000 per violation in cases of willful neglect or those that had to pay record-breaking sums – to the tune of millions of dollars – when they were found guilty of losing patients’ records that eventually ended up available on the Internet for everyone to see.

Moral of the lesson: abide by HIPAA database requirements. Better yet, get a HIPAA compliant cloud database today.

Let’s see how…

Kohezion and HIPAA compliance

Kohezion is a cloud database design platform. It is also the ideal solution for creating a HIPAA compliant cloud database. The most important, among many, reasons include:

  • It’s easy to use – it is a database design platform can be mastered quickly which allows even citizen developers to create robust cloud databases
  • Quick turn-around time – it doesn’t take long to create a HIPAA compliant database using Kohezion; low-coding cuts the time required to launch a new cloud database
  • Meets requirements – the database you create using the Kohezion database design platform will meet all the core HIPAA database requirements: encryption, security, and availability

And so, there’s no need to worry – at Kohezion, we can help you create the HIPAA compliant cloud database you are aiming for. In fact, go ahead; contact us to find out more.