HIPAA Disaster Recovery: A Comprehensive Overview

HIPAA Disaster Recovery Comprehensive Guide

In today’s technologically driven, running-round-the-clock healthcare environment, the constant availability of a HIPAA-compliant digital ecosystem is non-negotiable. Healthcare systems now rely entirely on massive amounts of data at all times, which means that HIPAA compliance is always a big problem in terms of both security and availability.

Not only must healthcare organizations adhere to HIPAA requirements at all times, but any business handling healthcare data in any capacity must adhere to HIPAA standards. Now, anyone who needs immediate access to critical data for a certain job can tell you how annoying it may be to be unable to locate and view it. In this case, consider the catastrophic repercussions of being unable to access files on a big scale of a healthcare system when looking for patient records during a life-threatening emergency. The need for simple access to healthcare data, thus, cannot be emphasized enough.

In the event of a disaster, HIPAA requires that protocols be in place to restore assets and secure sensitive healthcare information. This is where a HIPAA disaster recovery plan comes in. In the face of unprecedented data security incidents, a HIPAA disaster recovery plan will help you decrease your incident response time, maintain business continuity and minimize any data losses that may harm your organization’s reputation. In this blog, we will elaborate on the importance of the HIPAA disaster recovery plan and educate you on how to implement a robust one at your healthcare organization.

What is a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan?

In the event of a disaster, a HIPAA disaster recovery plan (HIPAA DRP) enables enterprises to take precise activities and follow processes to return assets to their original form and secure sensitive healthcare data.

To understand this better, you need to know the three types of safeguards provided by the HIPAA Security Rule: 

  • Administrative safeguards that oversee all HIPAA security controls deployed throughout your organization;
  • Technical safeguards that ensure the optimal operation of e-PHI security controls; and,  
  • Physical safeguards that prohibit unauthorized access to physical environments containing e-PHI.

Out of these, the administrative safeguard provision compels organizations to create contingency plans. As part of that, they must make a HIPAA disaster recovery strategy to minimize harm during a disaster. 

What are the Requirements of a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan?

Five HIPAA contingency planning requirements exist for developing and implementing a disaster recovery strategy. These include:

  • Data Backup Strategy (Required): To guarantee that sensitive data is not lost, the data backup strategy requires organizations to create and implement mechanisms for retrieving precise copies of electronically protected health information (e-PHI).
  • Disaster Recovery Plan (Required): According to the disaster recovery strategy, organizations must design and implement methods to restore any e-PHI loss to its original state.
  • Emergency Mode Operation Plan (Required): The emergency mode operation plan says that organizations should design and implement strategies to preserve the operation of important business services during a disaster to secure e-PHI.
  • Testing and Revision Procedures (Addressable): HIPAA requires organizations to develop periodic testing procedures and revise contingency plans to improve their efficacy.
  • Application and Data Criticality Analysis (Addressable): According to the final implementation requirement, organizations must assess and identify the essential assets for patient care and business needs to prioritize them for data backup, disaster recovery, and emergency operating plans.

The Need For an Updated Asset Inventory

If your asset inventory is sufficient, accurate, and well-documented, your HIPAA disaster recovery and contingency planning will be effective. If a calamity occurs, asset users are likely to be in a state of fear as they attempt to deal with the aftermath.

A current asset inventory will help HIPAA disaster recovery by streamlining processes for:

  • Recognizing asset kinds throughout your organization, such as:
    • On-premise assets such as workstations and servers;
    • Cloud-based assets, for example, programs and databases); and,
    • Endpoints, for example, mobile devices, laptops, etc.  
  • On-premises and cloud-based asset backup
  • Organizing asset recovery and restoration efforts into phases
  • Meeting compliance criteria for other broad standards, such as: 
    • PCI DSS, which protects cardholder data (CHD); and,
    • EU’s GDPR, which safeguards the rights of data subjects in the EU

A well-planned and up-to-date asset inventory will reduce delays in locating key assets during HIPAA disaster recovery and prevent unanticipated sensitive data losses.

Steps to Implement a Disaster Recovery Plan

Creating a disaster recovery plan for HIPAA-sensitive data necessitates precise documentation and dissemination of the processes and procedures your organization will follow during a disaster. Disaster recovery scenarios might include everything from severe weather to full-fledged cyber attacks. Examples of probable calamities will help optimize disaster recovery planning to the unique complexity of your organization’s IT architecture while building a HIPAA disaster recovery plan.

Here are the five steps you need to follow to implement a HIPAA DRP at your healthcare organization:

  1. Determine Roles and Responsibilities

Everyone on your internal team should be assigned tasks and duties. Assess the strengths of your team members and form a specialized unit that will manage the disaster recovery plan’s implementation and upkeep.

  1. List HIPAA Critical Assets

Perform asset inventory for successful implementation of a HIPAA DRP. You must catalog and document all assets to streamline the disaster recovery plan. To begin, determine the asset kinds, such as cloud-based assets, endpoints, etc. The assets relevant to the scope of HIPAA standards must then be documented.

  1. Create Your Disaster Recovery Processes

This is the most important step in putting in place a HIPAA disaster recovery plan. This is the document section that organizations follow while dealing with a disaster.

Align the processes and procedures for different disaster scenarios with the HIPAA disaster recovery criteria outlined above. Here, you will address the three major requirements. These processes involve notifying employees of the crisis, notifying IT and security departments, implementing data backup plans, monitoring the threat, and so on.

  1. Modify Your System Priorities for the Restoration Process

While certain disasters, such as system downtime due to technical issues, are readily controlled and remedied, others will be more difficult, and your entire infrastructure may be shut down. To resume critical business operations, you must first identify and prioritize the systems and applications that must be restored as soon as feasible.

  1. Test The Disaster Recovery Plan and Train Your Employees

Establish regular testing techniques for your developed disaster recovery systems. Drills can be used to assess the effectiveness of your plan and how personnel handles their allocated roles and duties.

Based on this, you can improve and update your strategy. This also allows you to train employees so that they know how to respond in the event of an unprecedented disaster.

HIPAA Compliance Readiness with Akitra

Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that their organizations are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk, and compliance certification fills that need.

Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our compliance automation platform and service help our customers prepare readiness for the HIPAA compliance standard, Risk Assessment, and Management along with other security frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CCPA, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently. 

The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings, including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.

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