HIPAA Compliant Database Hosting

HIPAA compliant database hosting services allow healthcare providers to create an efficient, digital data environment that helps them meet their precision medicine and population health goals, while ensuring all patient data is kept totally secure.

Just a few years ago, the challenges of cloud database hosting severely restricted usage scenarios. However, major improvements in performance over the past five years have made cloud database hosting a viable option for many healthcare organizations.

Advantages of HIPAA Database Hosting

There are several major advantages of HIPAA-compliant database hosting over on-premises databases. One of the most important benefits is the scalability of the cloud. Databases can be quickly and cheaply scaled, without the costs and difficulties of upgrading on-premises hardware.

Today’s cloud-native databases have also eliminated much of the complexity of building scalable distributed databases and they eliminate much of the administrative burden of database management, allowing database administrators to concentrate on more important tasks.

There is a common misconception that data stored in the cloud is less secure than in in house data centers. In reality, migrating databases to the cloud can greatly improve security. HIPAA database hosting providers have developed robust security controls and regularly test their defenses to ensure they continue to provide a high level of security against the latest cyber threats. Having a third party look after many aspects of database security eases the burden on your IT team.

Disadvantages of Cloud Database Hosting

With cloud database hosting pricing now extremely competitive, running databases in the cloud is cost effective; however, one major drawback is downtime. In the event of a major outage, cloud databases could be rendered inaccessible. For many organizations, that simply is not an option.

Just a few years ago, outages were a major concern, although the performance and reliability of HIPAA cloud hosting platforms has improved significantly. Some HIPAA database hosting companies even offer service level agreements which guarantee high performance and 100% uptime.

Choosing a HIPAA Database Hosting Provider

Two of the most important considerations when choosing a HIPAA database hosting provider are performance and availability. Moving your database to the cloud should improve performance, so choose a solution provider with world-class infrastructure and data centers that have been independently audited and verified as compliant with HIPAA Rules and HITECH Act requirements.

To ensure databases are always accessible, a service provider must ensure high availability and failover support for your databases. To satisfy the Security Rule’s requirement to ensure PHI is always available, look for a service provider that can guarantee 100% uptime through a service level agreement. The hosting provider must also be prepared to sign a business associate agreement.

Database management can be costly and time consuming. Many hosting providers offer a range of managed hosting and security services to improve your security posture and ease the administrative burden on your database administrator.  With the right HIPAA database hosting provider, secure, high-performance, flexible and scalable databases can be created and easily managed to help streamline your organization’s workflows.

HIPAA Compliant Database Hosting FAQ

Is there a certification that guarantees a database hosting provider is HIPAA compliant?

There is no certification for database hosting or any other type of hosting service recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services. Furthermore, whenever a database is hosted in the cloud, the responsibility for HIPAA compliance is shared between the Covered Entity and the Cloud Service Provider. It is important Covered Entities are aware what their share of responsibilities consists of.

Do databases have to be hosted on dedicated servers?

While there is no requirement in HIPAA for databases to be hosted on dedicated servers, it may be a requirement of the Cloud Service Provider in order to qualify for a Business Associate Agreement. While dedicated servers can be a little more expensive, hosting a database on a dedicated server will avoid the scenario in which tenants on a shared server utilize more than their fair share of the server´s resources.

What if I need managed database hosting? Is that still HIPAA compliant?

Many Managed Service Providers offer HIPAA-compliant managed database hosting. Indeed, many organizations with teams capable of running on-premises and cloud-based databases still use Managed Service Providers because of their experience working with Covered Entities. Naturally, make sure you do extensive due diligence on the Provider, and don´t forget to sign a Business Associate Agreement.

How can migrating databases to the cloud “greatly enhance security”?

The sophistication of cyberattacks is increasing and existing defenses against malicious outsiders will soon be insufficient to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of ePHI – even encrypted ePHI. Cloud Service Providers spend billions of dollars each year researching the next generation of attacks and building systems that can withstand them. These systems will “greatly enhance security” in the future.

How is it possible for database hosting services to avoid outages?

Most providers – but not all – utilize a fully redundant infrastructure that includes dual power feeds, generator backup, multiple redundant network uplinks, and redundant HVAC systems. Before committing to a database hosting service, you should again do extensive due diligence to check for safeguards such as disk mirroring and RAID 10 storage protection to guarantee 100% uptime.