The Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as HIPAA is US legislation that sets data privacy and security standards for protected health information (PHI). HIPAA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, with the main objective being to protect patient privacy.
A Business Associates Agreement (BAA) dictates how a business associate (BA) operates and deals with protected health information (PHI). These agreements typically state how the business associate will maintain compliance and lays out responsibilities for both sides. Most cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) operate on a “Shared Responsibility” model, where the cloud provider, as well as your organization are responsible for specific safeguards.
Although it is recommended you sign a BAA with service partners who will be storing PHI, BAAs do not automatically make your organization compliant. Your organization’s internal policies, procedures, and review of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards is an important responsibility that ultimately helps dictate if your organization is in compliance.
Yes, HHS has released guidance on the use of cloud services with PHI. In their release, HHS has stated that covered entities and business associates may store PHI with cloud services after entering a Business Associates Agreement (BAA).
HHS states that BAA agreements lay out responsibilities for both parties, with certain HIPAA provisions such as: back-up and data recovery, PHI use, retention and disclose, and administrative policy often being exceptions to agreements, and the responsibility of covered entities.
A wide array of AWS cloud services can be configured in a HIPAA compliant manner. Amazon provides a list of AWS HIPAA-eligable services that organizations can configure and utilize in a HIPAA compliant manner. It is up to organizations to implement the administrative and technical controls required under the Amazon’s Cloud Shared Responsibility Model.