Effective Date: July 7, 2023
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the regulations issued under HIPAA are a set of US healthcare laws that, among other provisions, establish requirements for the use, disclosure, and safeguarding of protected health information (PHI). The scope of HIPAA was extended in 2009 with the enactment of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that was created to stimulate the adoption of electronic health records and supporting information technology.
HIPAA applies to covered entities – doctors’ offices, hospitals, health insurers, and other healthcare companies – that create, receive, maintain, transmit, or access PHI. HIPAA further applies to business associates of covered entities that perform certain functions or activities involving PHI as part of providing services to the covered entity or on behalf of the covered entity. When a covered entity engages the services of a cloud service provider (CSP), the CSP becomes a business associate under HIPAA. Moreover, when a business associate subcontracts with a CSP to create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI, the CSP also becomes a business associate.
Together, HIPAA and HITECH Act rules include:
The Privacy Rule, which requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of PHI and imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of PHI without patient authorization. It also gives patients the rights over their health information, including rights to examine their health records and request corrections.
The Security Rule, which sets the standards for administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and security of electronic PHI.
HIPAA regulations require that covered entities and their business associates enter into a contract called a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) to ensure the business associates protect PHI adequately. Among other things, a BAA establishes the permitted and required uses and disclosures of PHI by the business associate, based on the relationship between the parties and the activities and services being performed by the business associate.