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How to Be HIPAA Compliant When Sharing Sensitive Files
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on March 21st, 2018

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How to Be HIPAA Compliant When Sharing Sensitive Files


Are you working hard to keep your file sharing processes HIPAA compliant? For many companies, they think their file sharing is secure, but they’re not positive they’re aligning with all the applicable HIPAA requirements. And, unfortunately, in many cases, you don’t there’s a problem with your file sharing security until a data breach occurs.

Your clients trust you with their PHI (protected health information), and to avoid breaking that trust or violating HIPAA standards, it’s important that you have HIPAA compliant file sharing processes. Maintaining HIPAA compliance is essential, but how do you ensure your company is following the rules? Keep reading to discover how HIPAA impacts data sharing and protecting PHI, and get tips on HIPAA-compliant file sharing.


How Does HIPAA Impact Secure File Sharing?

When sharing files between employees at your company and with third parties, it’s essential that PHI remains protected. But, it can be hard to determine if you’re really protecting your data or if it’s vulnerable to hackers. If you align with HIPAA standards, you can feel confident that you're defending your data against an attack.

So, when it comes to file sharing, what does HIPAA have to say? There are a few guidelines that pertain to how you can safely share PHI, outlined by three different sets of HIPAA safeguards, all designed to keep private patient information safe.

  • Technical Safeguards - These pertain to how you secure the technology used to transmit, store, and access PHI, including user access controls, encryption, and more.
  • Physical Safeguards - Physical safeguards are related to the physical access to your PHI, i.e. your facility, employee workspaces, hardware, and mobile devices.
  • Administrative Safeguards - These safeguards cover risk management policies, training, contingency plans, and third-party access to your PHI.

Each of these safeguards has an impact on how you should be sharing files, so it’s important that you keep these standards in mind. Let’s look at some specific steps you should take to help you remain compliant.


HIPAA compliant file sharing

Encrypt Your Files

A data breach involving HIPAA-protected data could cost your company more than just fines. It could cost you business and your reputation, as well. When your files are both in transit and at rest, you want to be sure that they’re protected from any potential breach. Encryption is the key to keeping your files secure.

Encrypting your files is crucial when they’re being transferred to other parties, and when data is at rest, too. If a device with ePHI (electronic protected health information) is lost, stolen, or compromised, encryption will still protect your data.

Also, it’s a good rule of thumb to always use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. This ensures that data can’t be tampered with when transmitted between your websites and your users’ browsers. This also has an aspect of convenience for your users, too. HTTPS not only blocks malicious attackers, it also prevents intrusive companies like internet service providers or hotels from injecting ads into your website pages, as well.


Limit User Access

One goal of HIPAA standards is to ensure patient health information is only accessible by authorized parties. To make this goal a reality, you need the capability to limit user access to stored and shared files. While some file sharing solutions might offer basic access controls, to be truly HIPAA compliant, you need a solution with granular access controls, like the ones listed below.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication - Multi-factor authentication is the process of verifying a user’s identity with the use of multiple credentials. Often, it can be a user’s password and a one-time password sent to their phone or email address. Or, it could be a password combined with a correctly answered security question.

This provides an added layer of security to your files. So, even if a password is compromised, a hacker could not access your HIPAA-protected data immediately. The other authentication method would stand in the way.

  • Auto Logoff - One HIPAA guideline is to “Implement electronic procedures that terminate an electronic session after a predetermined time of inactivity.” Basically, you need a HIPAA-compliant file sharing solution with auto logoff capabilities. If an employee forgets to log out of their account or is simply careless, auto logoff controls ensure their account can’t be accessed after sitting idle. This prevents noncompliant access in the event of a stolen or unattended device.
  • Unique User IDs - According to HIPAA guidelines, you need to “assign a unique name and/or number for identifying and tracking user identity.” This is an important mandate, especially for tracking who accesses data, when they accessed it, and for what purpose. With a HIPAA-compliant file sharing solution, you can keep an eye on how your users are handling data.


Choose a HIPAA-Compliant File Sharing Solution

Ultimately, the best step you can take toward a HIPAA-compliant file sharing process is to adopt a file sharing solution with the necessary features built-in. This saves time and effort when trying to implement a policy or process to address each HIPAA standard. You can simply adopt a HIPAA-compliant file sharing solution and immediately be in alignment with HIPAA policies.

A HIPAA-compliant solution can even help you achieve the previous mandates. To ensure your files are encrypted and you have granular access controls, look for a solution that promises HIPAA-compliant file sharing, like FTP Today. These solutions are developed to support you in your compliance efforts, and make it easier for your employees to align with key standards.

With a top HIPAA-compliant file sharing solution, you don’t have to worry about the security of your file sharing. These solutions are the most valuable partner you can have in your efforts to align with HIPAA standards. So, it’s important to choose a solution that enables all of these essential features and more. They’ll help you avoid the risks of noncompliance and maintain the highest levels of protection around your most sensitive data.

Are you looking for a HIPAA-compliant file sharing solution? Download this free guide on HIPAA compliance readiness to help you in your search.

HIPAA compliant file sharing

About Martin Horan

Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.

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