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They state on their website that Ambience is HIPAA compliant which is clearly a positive sign, but the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legislation states that you can’t stop here and you need to thoroughly vet the vendor.
According to the HIPAA rules for Covered Entities and Business Associates:
'If a covered entity engages a business associate to help it carry out its health care activities and functions, the covered entity must have a written business associate contract or other arrangement with the business associate that establishes specifically what the business associate has been engaged to do and requires the business associate to comply with the Rules’ requirements to protect the privacy and security of protected health information. In addition to these contractual obligations, business associates are directly liable for compliance with certain provisions of the HIPAA Rules.'
Below we provide some general guidelines on how to first quickly screen this vendor for the HIPAA compliance fundamentals, and if all initial checks pass successfully, then to proceed and do your own in-depth audit to ensure that this vendor will qualify as your HIPAA-compliant Business Associate.
✅ They communicate they are HIPAA compliant which is a positive sign, as they legally commit from their side using such public statements.
'When we provide these services within the healthcare environment in the United States, we are subject to a federal medical privacy law called HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).'Source: HIPAA Compliance with Ambience Healthcare
✅ They state they will sign their standard BAA with covered entities/business associates, which is again a good sign because if they don’t sign a BAA then it’s a deal-breaker for HIPAA compliance.
'Registered users of our healthcare services within the United States must agree to additional terms in order to use our services in compliance with HIPAA. When providing services in the United States, we are classified as a Business Associate under HIPAA, and that law’s protections apply to all patient information we access.'Source: Ambience Healthcare's Business Associate Agreement (BAA)
✅ They publicly outline various of the privacy & security safeguards they have in place, but these can be very broad statements and you need to check the low level details here.
'We are committed to maintaining the security of personal information. We use appropriate administrative, technical, and physical security measures intended to protect against loss, misuse, improper access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction of personal information. If we share personal information with third parties to provide services to us, we will contractually require them to employ appropriate security measures to protect it.'Source: Ambience Healthcare On Security
There is no one-size-fits-all set of requirements when selecting a 3rd party vendor as one of your HIPAA-compliant Business Associates, but here are some general guidelines:
First, you need to determine on which plans they offer HIPAA compliance and whether pricing makes sense for you:
You need to contact the vendor directly about which plans are eligible for HIPAA compliance.Source: Ambience Healthcare Book a Demo Page
Then, you need to carefully review & sign their legal contracts, especially their Business Associate Agreement and Terms of Service (ask them for the latest versions - in some cases, you might need to sign an NDA):
Ambience’s Business Associate Agreement
Ambience's Terms of Service
Finally, at least once a year, reassess whether or not the vendor is still in compliance with HIPAA.
Source 1: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services HIPAA Privacy Rule Guidance Material
Source 2: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services HIPAA Security Rule Guidance Material
HIPAA compliance has no one-size-fits-all vendor assessment methodology but we have covered here various best practices on how to thoroughly evaluate Ambience for HIPAA compliance, so that they can be eventually trusted to process or store your sensitive patient data.
Regardless of the above, for all your 3rd party vendors, you need to follow the fundamental HIPAA principle and always disclose to them the 'minimum necessary' information, which means only disclosing the amount of PHI you absolutely have to.
If you follow the 'minimum necessary' principle and you regularly evaluate your 3rd party vendors for their commitment to the HIPAA standards while having solid Business Associate Agreements with them in place, then you can minimize the risk of a potential HIPAA violation and decrease the probability of a damaging data breach happening in the first place.
The above is provided for informational purposes only and in order to help encourage adoption of security & privacy best practices for handling sensitive patient data. It does NOT constitute legal or healthcare advice in any way. The information presented here has been collected either from publicly available information or through direct email communication with the company, and everyone needs to perform their own independent HIPAA compliance audit before selecting any 3rd party vendor as their Business Associate that will process any type of their Protected Health Information (PHI). Keragon Inc is not liable for any damage or liabilities arising out of or connected in any manner with information found on this page.