Many practitioners today promote their services using their own websites and other digital tools on the web. Healthcare and medical websites require a special kind of webhosting. That is because there are laws governing issues such as the security of patient information. It is with this in mind that this article addresses the requirements necessary to host healthcare and medical websites.
There are two NHSA (National Health Service Act) rules you have to take into consideration while getting a healthcare or medical site hosted. The first is the privacy rule, which is covered under NHSA Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information.
The second is the security rule, which pertains to NHSA’s security standards for the protection of electronic health Information. This law even details how this sensitive health information should be encrypted.
Protecting safety of private health information
It’s clear that NHS standards have something to say about the way healthcare and medical websites should be hosted. So does the HITECH Act in the USA, which broadened HIPAA’s (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) mandate. Speaking of which, HIPAA outlines the lowest national standards that have to be met when handling protected health information (PHI).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the body charged with managing and enforcing these standards. What’s surprising is that the initial role of HIPAA standards was to standardize healthcare transactions and lower their costs without compromising the safety of private health information.
How is data encrypted in the Cloud?
The overarching benefit of cloud storage is versatility. Hosting resources can be easily and seamlessly adjusted to suit a website’s needs when using this hosting method. However, it is still possible to comply with HIPAA standards when using cloud-based hosting.
These standards stipulate how health information should be transmitted and stored. In fact, no new tricks are needed to encrypt data during flight (transmission) and rest (storage).
Consequently, there is no difference between the virtual servers used in a cloud storage environment and the physical servers used in more conventional networks. Full root access and administrative control is also possible over virtual servers.
As the protected health information is being transmitted, it is encrypted using 256-bit AES algorithms and other encryption technologies. And just for better bandwidth efficiency, any unrequired health information is omitted from the transmission.
Furthermore, if an extra layer of security is needed, a firewall can be used to block all traffic unless when coming from an EC2 port. Companies known for hosting healthcare and medical sites, for instance Amazon, also suggest that all data – short term or long term – be encrypted before it is transmitted.
Extra Requirements for all-round high-level protection of private health data
Encryption should certainly put to rest any security issues that come with transmitting and storing protected health data in the cloud. But what about when this information is accessed by administrators and third parties?
Its security can easily get compromised, which is why additional security is necessary. This would entail implementing audit controls, access consent procedures, and security policies to ensure authentic access to the sensitive data at all times.
Backup and Disaster Recovery Webhosting needs
Backing up site data is now a service usually provided by most webhosting services. But for the HIPAA, this is actually a requirement in case data is lost during emergencies.
For this reason, as the operator of a healthcare or medical site, it is important to ensure exact data backups exists. More importantly, the backups have to meet NHS standards. Having these backups is usually a costly IT undertaking for many health and medical organizations.
Nevertheless, there is no way around it since legal standards governing the use of health information have to be met at all times.