One issue businesses can face when adopting new software or MSP tools is the issue of making sure it properly meets the compliance standards of your company, and by further extension that it follows what’s known as HIPAA compliance. Before we can get into whether or not Microsoft 365 is HIPAA compliant, we need to explain what HIPAA is, what it covers, and why it exists.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA was an Act law passed in 1996. While originally for the U.S., HIPAA is now an industry standard for countries across the world. The act covers the data privacy and security regulations that healthcare and medical care practitioners must follow in order to make sure sensitive medical records and information are protected from data breaches, cyber-attacks, ransomware, or hackers. While HIPAA has a number of uses beyond security measures for medical industry compliance, we’ll be strictly discussing HIPAA and its Title II privacy concerns as laid out in the law.
In order for a medical or healthcare practitioner to follow proper HIPAA compliance, the following elements related to medical information and files must be protected:
In addition to this, HIPAA has security rules in place which helps to set standards for the securing, storing, and transfer of patient data. This means the business in question must utilize safeguards for both physical and electronic storage, as well as maintenance of the stored information. Finally, let’s cover HIPAA Compliance in general. HIPAA compliance means health care organizations who rely on services or third-party vendors and tools like IT providers or software must follow and comply with HIPAA regulations and utilize only verified vendors approved by the HIPAA Alliance Marketplace. These verified vendors are known as Business Associates or Bas.
In order for a business associate to be considered for a HIPAA Business Associate contract, they must meet the following eligibilities:
With all of this information in mind, it is important to remember many software and email platforms are not fully HIPAA compliant. However, there are ways around the issue of HIPAA compliance when using these. For one, using an email system with security features for uploading and transferring data is one method to meet HIPAA compliance. With all this information to draw from, let’s now review Microsoft 365 and see if it meets HIPAA compliance standards.
Microsoft is a longtime supporter of HIPAA compliance, with a variety of its services from Office Suite, Office 365, and the enterprise versions of Microsoft 365. However, not all packages offered for the Microsoft 365 system support meet all the requirements of HIPAA. This is why purchasing the correct package for your Microsoft 365 system is important in the context of compliance.
In order to use these services and have them covered by the BA compliance standards, you’ll need to take extra care to make sure you and your team are using these programs correctly and configuring them to utilize them to HIPAA compliance. For this, it’s recommended to use Microsoft 365’s enterprise package, as it offers enterprise-level encryption, Microsoft Exchange Online Protection, data loss prevention (DLP), and the ability to remotely wipe your mobile devices. Additionally, you’ll need to consider the following elements:
As you can see, when utilized and configured properly, Microsoft 365 can meet HIPAA compliance fairly easily. It’s important to keep your staff informed on these matters, making them regular parts of meetings or newsletters. If you’re still struggling to maintain proper HIPAA Compliance, you can consider contracting Let’s Nurture for a free consultation regarding its setup. We’ve been providing tech solutions for businesses for over two decades, with real-world solutions for whatever your business needs.