With telehealth on the rise due to the pandemic, HIPAA-compliant file sharing and HIPAA-compliant cloud storage have never been more important. The CDC stated that 95 percent of health centers reported using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, up from 43 percent in 2019. 


But it’s not just organizations that deploy telehealth services that require HIPAA-compliant file-sharing. Every medical organization needs ways to easily share and store important medical files securely and privately. Violations can result in hefty fines, which can be as high as $50,000 per violation. Since how you store sensitive medical files is probably consistent across the organization, it’s likely that non-compliance would result in more than one violation, which could lead to penalties of up to $1.5 million annually. 


What Does It Mean to Be HIPAA Compliant? 

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is designed to protect health information that could identify a patient as an individual, such as names, contact information, social security numbers, financial information and medical records. 


Healthcare organizations, as well as other organizations that do business with healthcare organizations, must follow HIPAA compliance when storing and transmitting patient information. With the right processes and procedures in place, healthcare organizations and business associates can ensure compliance and protect a data breach. While HIPAA compliance relates to patient privacy as well as file security, maintaining HIPAA compliance with digital files can be a challenge if you don’t choose the right HIPAA-compliant file storage. 


How to Share Files and Remain HIPAA Compliant

The important thing to remember when sharing sensitive patient data (Patient Health Information, or PHI) is to protect that data from a security breach or cyberattack. With this in mind, many common file-sharing solutions meet the minimum requirements for security. 


Since there is no official HIPAA certification, the onus remains on the healthcare entity and its business associates to ensure the proper measures are in place to prohibit any unauthorized transfer of data. 

Some aspects that can help ensure HIPAA compliance include access control, methods to monitor account access, and the means to grant or revoke permissions — even after files have been downloaded. 


In addition, cloud storage providers should use state-of-the-art security technology that meets industry-recognized security standards to protect PHI.  


Which Cloud Storage Systems Are HIPAA Compliant?

In today’s digital age, especially with the growth of telehealth, healthcare organizations require a cloud storage system that permits the transfer of PHI securely to and from a patient’s home, as well as between medical facilities, and possibly even between schools or workplaces. For instance, some employers may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test to permit a return to work. As there are no certifications for HIPAA compliance, it is up to the organization to ensure that they are using cloud storage in a way that follows all the rules. 


Is Dropbox HIPAA Compliant? 

Dropbox provides the secure transmission of files, but puts compliance in the hands of the customer. Healthcare organizations can request a Business Associate Agreement, which allows the transmission of PHI into Dropbox storage. But the onus is on the user to ensure the files are transmitted over a secure network and to monitor for breaches. In the event of a breach, Dropbox does not offer 24/7 support from a live person. If there is a problem, you may not be able to act quickly to resolve and report a breach or other cybersecurity incident. 


Learn more about if Dropbox is secure enough for your business needs here!


Are Google Drive and One Drive HIPAA Compliant? 

Like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive offer easy and convenient ways to store and transmit files. But is Google Drive HIPAA compliant? What about Microsoft OneDrive? The answer is: It depends. If users set the right protocols for Google Drive, it can meet HIPAA standards. Users should turn off link-sharing and file-syncing capabilities, enable 2-factor authentication, disable third-party apps, and consistently audit access logs. 


Similarly, OneDrive requires users to maintain their own access logs and complete a security risk assessment, essentially taking the responsibility of ensuring that the software is secure and compliant. 


Is HIPAA Compliance Enough for True Security? 

Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive all place responsibility on healthcare organizations and their business associates to ensure compliance by configuring the software in a way that maximizes security and prevents breaches. These cloud-based storage solutions may not provide the peace of mind you’re seeking when transmitting or storing sensitive PHI. 


True peace of mind comes from multiple levels of security, including multiple firewalls, the highest security standards, plus features that help those within your organization manage the access of PHI files easily — and that leave a virtual paper trail of anyone who has viewed or edited files for accountability. 


Why a VDR Is More Secure for HIPAA-Compliant File-Sharing

A virtual data room like Caplinked begins with security in mind. With data centers that provide around-the-clock monitoring and surveillance, firewalls, and enterprise-level security, including file storage that meets ISO 27001 standards, healthcare organizations can be assured that their cloud storage provider is as dedicated to HIPAA compliance as they are. Caplinked also uses multi-level data encryption, ensuring that all files are transferred via HTTPS connections for increased security.


Now more than ever, HIPAA compliance is crucial for healthcare organizations looking to provide premium service to patients through telehealth or in-person care. Start your free trial of Caplinked today to learn more about how our VDR solutions can help. 


Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing expert specializing in technology, business and finance. 



CDC.gov – Trends in Use of Telehealth Among Health Centers During the Covid-19 Pandemic

HIPAA Journal – What Are the Penalties for HIPAA Violations? 

Compliancy Group – What Is HIPAA Compliance?