Healthcare is well on the way to transitioning from paper to electronic documentation. It’s no secret. Most patients can now access health records and talk with doctors online. With the transition, strict regulation has also accompanied this increase in electronic storage and transmission of patient information for the healthcare industry. The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 further hastened this transition as electronic storage and documentation of patient records became a legal requirement and was no longer optional.
With so much patient information being stored electronically, it is essential that healthcare facilities have a disaster recovery strategy in the event that their network infrastructure is compromised. In addition to other kinds of disasters, the healthcare industry is a frequent target for ransomware attacks whereby patients' information is encrypted or corrupted This can render crucial patient data inaccessible to healthcare workers. In 2016, 88 percent of all ransomware attacks in the U.S. targeted the healthcare industry; this resulted in the compromise and loss of hundreds of thousands of patient records.
What is a HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery plan?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 is the federal law that guides the storage and privacy of medical information. Under HIPAA, all medical information should be kept private and should be shared only with individuals who are relevant to a patient's care. Healthcare facilities are expected to adhere to HIPAA regulations when developing disaster recovery strategies. These HIPAA-compliant plans ensure that medical information is kept private as well as protected during data backup and recovery.
Importance of a HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery plan
- Legal requirement: Under the Administrative Safeguards section of the HIPAA security rule, all U.S. healthcare facilities are expected to have a HIPAA-compliant disaster plan; failure to comply may result in steep fines or penalties. The Administrative Safeguards section describes the expectations for data backup and recovery for healthcare facilities. It also details the type of medical information that should be backed up.
- Patient protection: A HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery plan provides protection for patients because it ensures that essential medical information is not lost in the event of a disaster. The loss of patient information after a disaster may interfere with the optimal medical treatment of a patient which may result in serious adverse consequences.
- Business continuity: This is the ability of an organization to resume operations with little to no disruption after a disaster. With a HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery plan, medical information can be restored and normal operations can resume after a disaster. With a well-developed strategy, there is minimal downtime following a disaster. This helps to minimize financial losses that may result from an interruption in hospital operations.
How cloud solutions enhance HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery?
There are several benefits to using cloud solutions by healthcare facilities in developing HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery strategies:
- Data prioritization: When backing up medical information, it is important to sort the data to ensure that essential patient information is stored first before other medical information. The loss or corruption of patient data can truly produce life-threatening impacts for some patients.
- Scalability: With so much data generated by healthcare facilities, it may be challenging to perform frequent backups as required by the disaster plan on a traditional data infrastructure. The physical capacity of the infrastructure may limit the amount of data that can be backed up. The cloud has no space limitations; its storage capacity can be expanded as much as necessary to accommodate the data that needs to be backed up.
- Cost: The cost of storing data in the cloud is much cheaper than in a traditional network infrastructure. The costs of the hardware, IT personnel, and maintenance costs are borne by the cloud service provider.
At NewCloud Networks, we are intricately familiar with what it takes to develop a cloud-based HIPAA-compliant disaster recovery strategy for your healthcare facility. With over 30 years of experience, we are experts in developing disaster plans uniquely suited to your facility. Contact us today for more information about our services.