10 Steps to Make a HIPAA Compliant Website Design

Rules and regulations of HIPAA compliance are complex to understand, however when it comes to healthcare, everything related to it from EHR to telehealth, and even websites are made HIPAA compliant to reduce rising cases of data breaches. As per a report, in 2021, around 500 or more data breaches were reported every day. 

With current and prospective patients using websites to book appointments or share personal health information, ensure to develop a HIPAA complaint website; and here are 10 essential steps to make a HIPAA compliant website designfor healthcare organizations.

1. Partner with healthcare software developers well versed in HIPAA regulations

The HIPAA regulations for web hosting hosting and server offers standards to secure healthcare data. These standards revolve around physical, administrative, and technical safeguards that are incorporated while selecting a web host and server.

The HIPAA compliance certificate ensures that a company or a service provider adheres to compliance rules.

Partnering with healthcare software development experts like Arkenea, a HIPAA compliant healthcare website design and development company ensures that your website development adheres to the stringent regulatory requirements outlined by HIPAA privacy, security and omnibus rules.

Furthermore, HIPAA compliance certificate provides credibility and reassures healthcare facilities that service providers incorporate necessary safeguards while designing a website.

Healthcare software developers know that SOC2 TYPE 1 and 2 certifications aren’t required for hosting providers, however it’ll add on to the security level of data. Refrain from using a standard web hosting or a non-HIPAA web host because it fails to provide at least one of following –

1. Off-site backups

2. Signed BAA (Business Associate Agreement)

3. Mitigating vulnerabilities and monthly scans

4. Log retention (at least six years)

5. Server hardening

Web hosting such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are diverse cloud solutions that provide HIPAA compliant web hosting, and cloud’s reliability and scalability is best in class.

With HIPAA compliant hosting, physical servers are secured against hackers, malware, and other cyber threats.    

2. Obtain a SSL Certificate

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates or digital certificates are digital files that safeguard communication between computer applications on a network.

SSL certificates encrypt confidential data between website servers and users’ browsers. Email secure socket layer certificates ensure end-to-end encryption to outgoing mails, along with signing digitally OpenOffice and Microsoft Office documents, and validating sender’s ID.

SSL certificates ensure that all HIPAA and HITECH rules are adhered to; these include privacy rule that protects ePHI (Protected Health Information) and a security rule to maintain privacy of healthcare data. Assure that every healthcare website has an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), and selecting the right SSL certificate secure a medical website.

Furthermore, in 2014 Google announced that having a HTTPS feature and SSL certificate will have higher ranking as compared to those who don’t have one, hence obtain a SSL certificate to get a competitive edge in the healthcare domain.

Apart from helping to build a HIPAA compliant website, SSL certificate helps to secure payment methods and surge conversion rates for healthcare website due to guaranteed privacy and security aspects. Service providers and website designers can help in acquiring SSL certificates.

3. Get HIPAA BAA With Site Host

BAA (Business Associate Agreement) is an agreement that specifies every party’s responsibilities when it comes to protected health information (PHI). Covered Entities work only with Business Associates that ensure PHI protection.

Healthcare organizations with BAA of all three levels meet the requirements of HIPAA. As per HHS (US Department of Health and Human Services), the Business Associate or Subcontractor agreement includes –

1. Description of the required and permitted PHI usages by the Subcontractor/Business Associate.

2. Use safeguards to protect and prevent inappropriate use or disclosure of PHI.

3. The Subcontractor/Business Associate will not disclose PHI than as permitted or needed by law or contract.

A HIPAA complaint web hosting sites provide a signed BAA such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. Breach of BAA agreement or failure to meet the requirements of the agreements results in criminal and civil penalties for failing to safeguard or disclosing PHI to unauthorized people.

4. Ensure Data Encryption

Loss of PHI is problematic as it exposes a patient’s personal information that can be misused in several ways such as fraud, identity theft, reputation damage, and more; it also hampers an organization’s image in the market as well.

Data encryption helps to protect and secure private data from hackers, and HIPAA has set three rules for encryption –

1. The privacy rule to protect PHI and other documents.

2. The security rule to maintain security standards for transmission and storage of ePHI.

3. The breach notification rule that defines how organizations can report data breach to the patients and authorities.

Assure that all the collected PHI is converted into an unreadable text by using algorithms and software designed by the web development team.

HIPAA encryption developed by the designers acts like an armor for unsecured emails servers and systems, chats between healthcare team and patients, and transferred information.

Furthermore, weak encryption exposes data, hence take precautions to replace old devices, servers, systems and technologies that may cause weak data encryption.

5. MFA For Website

MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) is an extra layer of security for user authentication and consists of multiple credentials to verify identity.

A 2-factor authentication uses two possible checks to verify a users identity such as password and a smart key, whereas MFA uses two or more checks to verify users identity, which includes biometrics or more layers of security.

For healthcare organizations, MFA plays a crucial role to setup a strong authentication procedures and stay compliant with access management rules such as HIPAA and HITECH.

Furthermore, MFA ensures that the organization is secure from identity theft through stolen passwords. Multi-factor authentication puts a lid on weak passwords created by staff as they need to verify their identities multiple ways, hence hacker may not gain access to it even if a pin code/password is leaked. Organizations can mitigate the risks of unmanaged and remote devices of staff through MFA.

6. Restrict Access to PHI to the Permitted

Give access to PHI to the necessary staff while performing job duties or essential purposes such as payment, treatment, and healthcare operations. Patients have the right to restrict the use of their PHI. Restriction of PHI is agreed when –

1. Carrying out payments and healthcare operations that aren’t required by the law.

2. Pertinent to a healthcare service or item that the person has paid for in full.

Access to healthcare data is limited to patients and healthcare providers during emergency situations and treatment purpose. Disclosing information for any other purpose is considered as HIPAA violation and healthcare organizations can be penalized for it. Training staff for HIPAA compliance rules and regulations is the way forward to restrict access to PHI only to the few permitted ones.

7. Setup System For Data Backup and Recovery

While developing a HIPAA website, ensure to build a robust data backup and recovery system as per HIPAA rules. A HIPAA compliant backup and recovery plan is a part of the Security Rule that applies to Covered Entities and Business Associates.

Along with HIPAA, Business Associates are required to comply with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) as well.

While developing a data backup and recovery system, assure to follow the following HIPAA requirements for data backup and recovery plan –

1. Data backup plan: Procedures to maintain and create retrievable copies of EHR (Electronic Health Records).

2. Contingency Plan: Incorporate policies and protocols for responding during emergencies or other occurrences (fire, natural disaster, system failure, or vandalism) that damages EHR data.

3. HIPAA disaster recovery plan: Implement a procedure to restore loss of healthcare data.

4. Revisions and testing: Setup procedures for revision and testing of contingency plans.

5. Risk management: Establish security measures to decrease vulnerabilities and risks to a reasonable level. This also includes complying with the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of the ePHI that Business Associates and Covered Entities receives, creates, transmits, or maintains.

6. Encryption: Assure encryption of all ePHI for adhering to the privacy and security rules of HIPAA.

7. Transmission Security: This includes technical security measures to safeguard against unauthorized access to ePHI that’s transmitted over electronic communication channels.

While developing HIPAA website, the development team requires to incorporate a full backup schedule for the whole healthcare infrastructure that encompasses patient data as well as systems that handle any type of PHI.

8. System For Storage, Transfer, and Permanent Data Deletion

Ensure to include a permanent data deletion features while developing a HIPAA compliant website, as HIPAA mandates to delete all data that’s irrelevant and no longer required for the healthcare facility.

‘Permanent’ indicates that there’s no chance to recover that data back from the server. furthermore, storage and transfer of ePHI or any other confidential healthcare documents follow the security and privacy rule of the HIPAA; also consists of technical protocols to safeguard electronic information.

9. Use HIPAA Compliant Online Forms

A website form is a means of gathering information that’s filled out by a client or patients, for example mobile or desktop forms that collect insurance and medical data. This data is collected to make centralized and long-term medical records.

HIPAA compliant online or web forms assure that the connection between the website and the browser is encrypted, thus the data entered on the website or online forms is secured against unauthorized access.

While developing website, transfer forms to the HIPAA complaint web server. Compliance is applied while preparing contact forms, as securing addresses, emails, or phone numbers, is far most vital.

10. Provide HIPAA Compliance Training to Staff

HIPAA training is provided to all the staff members of the workforce irrespective of the level of interactive each one has with ePHI; which means maintenance teams, cleaners, gardeners etc. All are included in the basic tuition of HIPAA compliance and ePHI safety.

This training is essential because all the members of the Covered Entities need to understand how to secure ePHI from disclosures and unauthorized access. Failure to provide training is a violation of HIPAA regulations, and the Office of Civil Rights considers Business Associates and Covered Entities responsible for training.

A Covered Entity usually appoints a Privacy Officer for providing training to the employees. The training period varies according to the officer from a 20 minute video or 2 hours classroom session to a day-long workshop.

These were 10 steps to create a HIPAA complaint website for the healthcare organizations. Ascertain that all steps are adhered to for developing a secured website. To create a HIPAA complaint website for your organization or to know more about it, get in touch with Arkenea – a top-rated healthcare software development company in the USA.

Scroll to Top