HIPAA eCommerce

Azure HIPAA Compliance and Microsoft Azure Hosting

Updated  |  5 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Azure HIPAA Compliance ensures that Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform, meets the security and privacy standards mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  • It enables healthcare organizations to leverage Azure for hosting their applications and storing protected health information (PHI) securely.
  • Azure offers a range of security features, including access controls, encryption, auditing, and logging, to ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations.
  • Microsoft also signs a business associate agreement (BAAs) with covered entities, clarifying business associates' responsibilities and supporting HIPAA compliance.
  • Azure provides documentation, tools, and resources to help customers assess and maintain their HIPAA compliance in the cloud.

Microsoft Azure is one of the most popular cloud computing services available, offering virtual machines, app services, websites, mobile services, and a lot more. From simple WordPress hosting on Azure to complex DNN offerings, Azure can be an excellent choice for hosting your HIPAA-compliant websites, portals, and apps. When set up properly, it can offer excellent security for your electronic protected health information (ePHI) and eCommerce needs, ensuring you maintain HIPAA WordPress compliance in the cloud.

hipaa azure hosting

Hosting could be the most-attacked segment of your infrastructure, depending on how well or how poorly you set up the internal workings. That's why it's vital to choose a HIPAA web hosting provider that has extensive experience protecting vast amounts of ePHI data. Let's investigate HIPAA Azure compliance a bit more.

The Need for HIPAA Compliant Hosting

We're sure you're familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA. But keeping protected health information safe must be addressed at every step of data transference and storage.

Who needs HIPAA-compliant hosting? If you are entrusted with patient health information, you are a covered entity (CE) and must follow the HIPAA security rule. The most common CEs, including their staff, are:

  • Private practice physicians
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Insurance companies
  • Insurance clearing houses
  • Medical device manufacturers and resellers for devices that collect protected health information

Proper hosting with cloud service providers can help these CEs no matter the venue, including medical portals, medical apps, eCommerce, and pharmacies.

hipaa compliant hosting
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Is Azure HIPAA Compliant?

Azure is not the only cloud services provider, but it is often an excellent and affordable option for keeping ePHI safe. They have the legal documentation ready to sign a BAA (business associate agreement) with you, meaning they'll share legal responsibility if they are negligent in protecting HIPAA information in their care.

The only concerns don't come from Azure itself, but from how everything is set up on their HIPAA web hosting servers. Simply using cloud services does not mean that all necessary information is protected. It's important to find a HIPAA developer that has experience setting up cloud ePHI data so that it remains as secure as possible.

Getting Cloud Services Up and Running

Azure has an interesting model for cloud service hosting. They offer a subscription model, not just for the cloud hosting itself but also for helping set up HIPAA-compliant hosting. If you follow this turnkey blueprint, most security holes regarding cloud services are addressed from day one. It also offers pen testing tools so that you can test the security yourself.

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hipaa hosting

How Is HIPAA Hosting Different?

Every HIPAA eCommerce business wants to protect the information they store on servers, whether it's on-site or on the cloud (or hybrid). It might be proprietary designs, customer leads, credit card information, or a host of other data that has to be properly secured.

CEs across the healthcare industry also want to protect all this information, but there's one addition: CEs are legally required to protect the ePHI that's in their care. From a private practice with one doctor to multi-state hospital systems, it is the responsibility of the CE to provide protection for the information they collect or have access to. Failing to do so may lead to government-imposed fines, but it will also erode public trust once the news gets out about a HIPAA breach. It's also important to choose a HIPAA web hosting provider that makes a log of every time a file was accessed, which is part of the HIPAA Privacy Law.

Such detailed tracking and proof of security can help alleviate your responsibility if a breach occurs. If you showed a reasonable effort to protect the information, it's possible that HIPAA officials won't even find you at fault.

How HIPAA Hosting Providers Protect Information

Information must be protected both when it's at rest and when it's in transit. Data that isn't currently being accessed must be encrypted while on the cloud server. While it's in transit, information should be encrypted. Working with a well-established and experienced HIPAA hosting provider like Azure ensures that you'll get fast access and transfer speed, as well as decryption speed.

Having your protected health information stored in the cloud means that it can be accessed from anywhere. Healthcare providers and patients appreciate the ability to access doctor-patient portals and medical apps at any time. But it can be difficult to strike a balance between security and ease of use; information must be safe and at the same time easily accessible. Patients don't want to jump through too many hoops to gain information to medical information.

HIPAA Hosting Provider
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What to Look For, What to Do

When you're seeking out HIPAA-compliant hosting, whether using Azure or some other hosting service, there are some important things to look for and some important steps to take.

Look for Experience

Look for companies that have a proven track record with cloud hosting. The same goes for any developers you have protecting the ePHI on the servers.

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BAA signing

BAA

Work with a hosting provider that will sign a BAA with you. This means that they will legally share some of the blame they are liable for the breach.

Know Who is Responsible

Before you can sign a BAA, each party (your company and the cloud service provider) must agree to terms regarding who is responsible for what. You can pay for additional services from the provider, making them more responsible but ultimately costing you more.

hipaa responsibility
security pen test

Run Pen Tests

Information is attacked the moment it's put anywhere that has a publicly accessible portal. It's extremely important to have a white-hat hacker intentionally attack your website to ensure that security stands up to the latest attacks. This is commonly called penetration testing, better known as pen testing.

Keep Security Up To Date

Hackers are constantly finding new ways to exploit cracks in security. As we discussed above, it's vital to know who will be responsible for updating security to keep the EMR/EHR safe.

hipaa security update
bolster security

Bolster Security

Are the connection strings and any sensitive data encrypted? Where possible, are they removed from application files? Have you done what is necessary to set the security up in layers so that certain sensitive data is not accessible from web endpoints? Have you cached in the most secure way possible? Asking these questions is an excellent way to beef up your security.

Working with Clarity

Clarity has had new customers come to us after their previous vendor wasn't careful enough with their information. Sometimes the security of the data wasn't kept up to date; other times it wasn't properly secured in the first place.

Azure is often a good choice to protect HIPAA-covered information, and we can tell you if it's right for you. If not, we can point you in the right direction during our complimentary discovery process. There's no obligation to work with us; we just want to help you get on the right path to satisfy the HIPAA Security Rule and HIPAA Privacy Rule. Get in touch and let us know how we can help!

hipaa software development team

FAQ

 

Yes, a cloud service provider can be HIPAA compliant. To achieve compliance with cloud services and achieve HIPAA compliance, the provider must implement a series of measures to ensure the security and privacy of protected health information (PHI). This includes robust controls, encryption, regular risk assessments, secure data storage, and strong authentication mechanisms.

Healthcare organizations should also sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with cloud service providers, outlining their responsibilities regarding PHI. Compliance extends to physical and technical safeguards, training employees on HIPAA regulations, and having incident response plans in place. By adhering to these requirements, business associates providing a cloud service provider can meet HIPAA standards.

 

Yes, Microsoft Azure hosting can be HIPAA compliant. Azure cloud services provide a secure and compliant platform for hosting healthcare applications and storing PHI. It offers a wide range of services and features that enable customers to controls, data encryption, auditing, and logging capabilities to make Microsoft Azure HIPAA compliant.

Microsoft Azure also signs business associate agreements (BAAs) with covered entities to clarify their responsibilities and ensure cloud HIPAA compliance. By implementing the necessary security measures and following best practices, organizations can leverage Azure hosting while adhering to HIPAA requirements.

 

Azure takes several measures to achieve Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance. It implements robust security controls such as access management, encryption, auditing, and logging to protect sensitive data. Azure offers a secure infrastructure with features like Azure Security Center and Azure Key Vault to ensure data protection.

Microsoft, like some other cloud service providers, also signs a HIPAA business associate agreement (BAA) with covered entities, clarifying their responsibilities and supporting HIPAA compliance. Azure undergoes regular audits and assessments to maintain compliance and provides customers with documentation and guidance on HIPAA requirements. These measures collectively enable Azure to meet the security and privacy standards mandated by HIPAA for working with a covered entity.

 

No, Azure is not responsible for all aspects of HIPAA compliance. While Azure provides a compliant infrastructure and offers various security measures to support HIPAA requirements, customers have shared responsibility for their applications and usage of Azure services.

Customers must ensure that their applications and configurations adhere to HIPAA regulations, and implement appropriate access controls, data encryption, and logging practices. Microsoft offers guidance, resources, and tools to assist customers in achieving compliance, but ultimately, it is the responsibility of the customers to ensure their own compliance with HIPAA regulations in their use of Azure services.

 

Yes, you can store and process PHI in Azure. Microsoft Azure offers a secure and compliant environment for handling PHI in accordance with HIPAA regulations. Azure provides various services and features, such as controls, encryption, auditing, and logging, to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI.

By configuring your Azure environment properly and following the necessary security and privacy measures, you can securely store and process PHI in Azure. It is important to implement appropriate safeguards and compliance practices to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of sensitive healthcare data.

 

Yes, as a cloud provider, Azure offers comprehensive documentation for HIPAA compliance. The Microsoft Azure Trust Center provides a wealth of resources and information specifically tailored to HIPAA compliance.

The documentation includes whitepapers, compliance guides, implementation guides, and best practice recommendations for ensuring HIPAA compliance when using Azure services. It covers various aspects such as controls, data encryption, auditing, logging, and other security measures necessary for handling PHI in a compliant manner.

By referring to Azure's documentation, healthcare organizations can gain a better understanding of the requirements and guidelines for achieving and maintaining HIPAA compliance in their Azure deployments.

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Stephen Beer is a Content Writer at Clarity Ventures and has written about various tech industries for nearly a decade. He is determined to demystify HIPAA, integration, enterpise SEO, and eCommerce with easy-to-read, easy-to-understand articles to help businesses make the best decisions.