How to Create a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan

How to Create a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan

How to Create a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan

Having a disaster recovery plan is essential for any business, as it results in better recovery of data when an unexpected event such as a weather incident or cyberattack causes an outage. If you’re in the healthcare business, or if you deal with sensitive patient information, there are certain rules and regulations that you must follow with this plan.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA, puts safeguards in place so that sensitive patient data is always protected. If this data lives on your servers, it’s essential that you create a disaster recovery plan that abides by the act’s rules so that you stay within HIPAA compliance.

Below is a guide for how to create a HIPAA disaster recovery plan.

How to Create a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan

What is a Data Backup Plan?

Having a data backup plan in place ensures that you have identical copies of all essential files and data saved somewhere else, in case anything happens to the main database. This backup is typically stored at a different location than where the main database is, in case something happens at that site.

If, for example, the data on the main database get corrupted, you can go to the backup to retrieve the data and continue operating without further interruption.

A data backup plan is a detailed procedure for how data should be backed up, where it should be stored, how it will be restored in case of disaster and who is responsible for what throughout. By having one of these plans in place, it helps to ensure that both data loss and downtime are kept to a minimum.


Signed in 1996, HIPAA is a law that requires all healthcare organizations and those who store electronic protected health information, or ePHI, to put contingency plans in place in case of a disaster that ends up disrupting operations. These contingency plans will allow the business to function as normal until they’re able to resume operations.

The law itself also protects people’s ePHI from theft and fraud, and prevents people from having access to that information if they aren’t approved to do so. Only the patient and their designated representatives are allowed to have access to this information without the patient giving their consent.

HIPAA has many components, but the ones we’ll discuss here relate to data backup and recovery.

HIPAA’s Online Data Backup and Retention Requirements

There are multiple requirements under HIPAA for online data backup and retention. Here’s a breakdown of each. 

Physical safeguards and requirements

HIPAA requires that you have a data backup plan in place. This needs to include processes in place so they can retrieve identical copies of ePHI so that no sensitive data is ever lost or compromised. 

Another requirement is for a disaster recovery plan to be established, which needs to establish procedures for restoring this data to its original state.

Administrative safeguards

To stay HIPAA compliant, organizations need to put administrative safeguards in place so that everyone knows what to do whenever a disaster strikes. Clear roles and responsibilities need to be established as part of the disaster recovery plan, so that individuals and groups understand what they’re tasked with.

This includes not just responsibilities and roles when disaster strikes, but what people and groups need to do from an ongoing maintenance standpoint.

Technical requirements

Protecting the technical equipment is another vital step of any HIPAA disaster recovery plan. If a disaster happens, where should essential equipment be moved? Is there another secure area where the equipment can be moved if there’s a flood, earthquake or some other natural disaster?

If the equipment can’t be physically moved, is there other equipment off-site that can be used temporarily to ensure the organization can continue operating.

Leveraging Technology to Ensure HIPAA Compliance and Enhanced Data Protection

Luckily, there are many technological tools available today ensure HIPAA compliance and enhance data protection. The latest encryption technologies, for instance, add multiple layers of security so data is kept safe and can’t be easily viewed by those who aren’t allowed to do so.

There are also cloud-based solutions for data storage, for instance, that could help organizations backup data more easily. This not only leads to automatic backups, but easier recovery should anything go wrong.

Steps to Create a HIPAA Disaster Recovery Plan

There are a few steps to creating a HIPAA disaster recovery plan that every organization should follow. These steps are laid out below.

Analysis of critical data and applications

The first step in creating a HIPAA disaster recovery plan is doing a comprehensive analysis of your critical data and applications. This will help you to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities of your system in regards to the availability, integrity and confidentiality of all ePHI.

This analysis will give you a baseline of all security measures, and allow you to develop a disaster recovery plan that’s tailored specifically to your organization, while also following all HIPAA requirements.

Emergency mode operation plan

This plan ensures that all organizations are able to continue operating as an outage is occurring during and after an incident. This plan will specify the safeguards and procedures that are in place to ensure that people can access critical systems, as well as maintain security of the ePHI.

Some vital components of this plan include training staffers about the response protocols, as well as assigning responsibilities and roles that are clear so everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing.

Testing and revision procedures

Another essential component of the plan is regularly monitoring and auditing your system to ensure that you’re always compliant with HIPAA. Just like any other disaster recovery plan, it’s important to respond and adjust to the constantly-changing tech environment, as new threats and potential risks emerge.

By always testing your procedures and then revising them when necessary will ensure that you’re never out of compliance and always doing your best to protect this essential data. 

Create Your Disaster Recovery Strategy

If you are a healthcare organization or are responsible for storing ePHI, it’s essential that you put the proper protocols in place to ensure that you’re always compliant with HIPAA rules and regulations. These steps will always protect this sensitive data and serve as a roadmap for how you can recover any data that is lost or damaged following a disaster or unexpected incident.

Finding the Right MSP for a HIPAA-Compliant Infrastructure

HIPAA compliance isn’t an option, it’s a requirement for any organization who holds, stores and/or deals with sensitive medical information. Staying in compliance can be quite the challenge, as there are many steps to follow and things you must do.

One of the most important decisions you can make to remain in compliance with HIPAA is to partner with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) that is experienced with HIPAA compliance.

When you partner with Huntington Technology, you can rest assured knowing that our professionals have years of experience helping organizations just like your get and stay HIPAA compliant. Contact us today to learn more.