A Practical Guide To Achieving HIPAA Compliance In AWS

We all are concerned with maintaining security and data protection. That being said, cloud compliance enforces the laws and regulations governing data security and privacy. This step can be seen as a revolutionary volcano erupting to destroy or minimize the cyber-crimes and breaches, costing millions of dollars and customer credentials! Various cloud service providers like AWS and Azure help us understand the robust control to maintain security and data privacy through their compliance.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was established in the early 1990s and was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. AWS adheres to HIPAA compliance, enabling the storage, processing, maintaining, and transmission of protected health information (PHI) over the cloud. The leading Health and Life science companies like Philips, Siemens, Orion Health Cambia, Pega, and many others, are using the AWS services to protect their patients’ data and medical records.


Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act – Enforced in 2009-updated the HIPAA rules and established several federal rules to protect security and privacy for PHI’s. HITECH and HIPAA work together in safeguarding the medical data, patients’ rights, and the administration’s responsibilities towards maintaining and abiding by the compliance.

What is the Need for HIPAA?

First introduced in 1996 and later released in 2003, the violation of the same might even cost you the fortune of more than a million dollars!

Safeguarding sensitive patients’ information and protecting medical data is a top priority in the Healthcare Industry today. The healthcare industry has to deal with Protected Health Information (PHI) with a physical network, complying with HIPAA. The United States’ Health and Human Services (HHS) ensures and establishes national standards through HIPAA to protect personal and sensitive patients’ data/records.

The healthcare industry has gone computerized over the past decades, and HHS suggests computerizing the operations. Electronic Health Records (EHR), Computerised Physician Order Entry (CPOE), and Pharmacy and Laboratory systems have been moved over the internet. Hence, to secure all the sensitive medical data, HIPAA comes into the picture! Diving into the basics,

Some rules accompanied by HIPAA are –
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Transactional
  • Breach Alert
  • Enforcement
  • Identifiers

What does HIPAA compliance protect?

Here is the list of things that HIPAA safeguards for patients –
  • Name and birth dates
  • Treatment or Death Dates
  • Contact information
  • Medical History
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Photographs
  • And other unique identities.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) works within HITECH and HIPAA and enforces the privacy rules. OCR is responsible for imposing penalties for the violation of rules and some laws to govern compliance.

OCR recommends the health care organization and business to undertake actions like –
  1. Meeting HITECH and HIPAA regulations
  2. Enforcing disciplinary actions and standards
  3. Implementing the written policies and procedures
  4. Appointing a compliance officer and committee
  5. Conducting Training
  6. Communication lines development
  7. Internal auditing and monitoring
  8. Offense detection and taking corrective actions against the same.

AWS complying with HIPAA

AWS is working towards attracting various companies and organizations over the cloud. It now provides the next step at tracking the breaches- the Business Association Agreement (BAA).

BAA shares the legal responsibilities of the organizations and alerts them about the breaches. One can achieve compliance in AWS through a systematic strategy of checking logs, Auditing, Encryption, and Policy enforcement.

  • Encrypting the EBS volumes attached to the EC2 instances, S3 buckets through Key Management System (KEM) ensure data protection and other Storage systems. This is the best practice, which is well served by AWS in many services.
  • The Cloudwatch and Cloudtrail services within AWS keeps track of the logs and stores them in a centralized place. This way, we know what is happening, and we get posted by the updates over the email.
  • Identity Access Management (IAM) works for the authentication and implementation of several Rules and Policies.

Final Checklist for HIPAA compliance

  • AWS platform ensures the appropriate following of HIPAA compliance and provides real-time security, logging, and breach tracking. AWS encryption can save data breaches. The log services like CloudWatch can help monitor and track the bugs and security of the system.
  • AES-256 Encryption is another way of encrypting the data over the cloud.
  • Business Associate Agreement (BAA), as mentioned above, tracks and provides real-time notification of our service and compliance.
  • Setting up the rules and Policies- Controlling the Access and Identity should be the priority.
  • Real-time Access and patient notification- This way, we can detect any flaws and notify the patient in case of a data breach.
  • Extending the ways of safeguarding medical records and sensitive patient data- HIPAA exists for 15 years. The new kind of threats and breaches occur every 15 minutes. Hence, going beyond compliance to achieve data security can prove beneficial.
  • AWS or any other organization is not the proof of compliance- The organizations still need to follow the responsibility, standards, and guidelines for their security.
  • Authentication systems- like OAUTH and SAML can play a vital part in providing authenticated access to a genuine user. AWS serves IAM; hence no need in this case.
  • Evaluation – If any business changes occur, evaluating the change in the corresponding laws is another helpful way.
  • Security Management, Awareness, Training- The workforce within the organization should be aware of the possible threats and follow security procedures and norms.
  • Prevention Strategy and Backup planning- Preventive measures should be followed with an appropriate recovery plan in case of breaches. Malware protection, Antivirus, and other software should be implemented as a preventive measure against cyber-crime.

That is it! Understanding the terms related to HIPAA compliance and following the standards can save a million worth of breaches to your organization. You can read more about HIPAA compliance at this blog post.

How does Cloudanix help you be HIPAA compliant on AWS?

Cloudanix helps you audit your AWS account by running rules that tell you if you are violating HIPAA compliance and remediation rules that help you fix these vulnerabilities. To know more about how Cloudanix helps you be HIPAA compliant. And if you are convinced, you can sign up now!

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