Business Associates And HIPAA Compliance

by Carlton Fields

Pursuant to HIPAA, business associates of health care organizations have until September 23, 2013 to become HIPAA-compliant. This alert sets forth the factors often used to determine whether a company will be considered a business associate (BA) for HIPAA purposes, and, if so, what its obligations are under the Act.

Defining "Business Associate"

A HIPAA BA is a person or organization that performs functions, services, or activities on behalf of a health care organization (a covered entity) that has access to a patient’s protected health information (PHI). In addition, if a BA delegates a function, service, or activity to a subcontractor that involves disclosing PHI to the subcontractor, then that subcontractor is also a BA. An organization is a BA if it meets the definition of a BA regardless of whether it knows it, or whether it has a BA agreement in place.

The following business types are often deemed BAs when they perform services for a covered entity, such as a hospital, physician’s office, or health care plan:

  • CPA firms and auditors
  • Consultants, including those used for quality assurance, utilization review, data analysis, and accrediting
  • Management companies
  • Third party administrators
  • Pharmacy benefit managers
  • Medical transcriptionists
  • Claims processors, coders, or billing providers
  • Copy services
  • Translators
  • Answering services
  • Waste disposal, recycling and shredding vendors
  • Data processing firms
  • Software and hardware providers who may access patient information for installation, maintenance, and support services
  • Health information organizations and e-prescribing gateways
  • Data storage companies, including cloud storage vendors
  • Document storage facilities
  • Law firms

The following are not typically deemed BAs:

  • The U.S. Postal Service, UPS, Internet service providers, or other courier services
  • Telecommunications companies that only have occasional random access to PHI
  • Banking and financial institutions that only undertake payment processing functions
  • External researchers who do not create PHI
  • Janitorial companies

The Obligations of a Business Associate

The new HIPAA rule makes BAs directly liable for compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule. Failure to comply may result in civil and criminal penalties. Among other requirements, by the compliance date of September 23, 2013, BAs must:

  • Appoint a security officer who will be responsible for the organization’s compliance with the HIPAA rules
  • Perform a HIPAA risk assessment to identify current risks and areas that need improved protection
  • Develop and implement HIPAA administrative, technical, and physical safeguard policies and procedures
  • Provide HIPAA privacy and security training to all employees
  • Require that all BA subcontractors comply with the same HIPAA rules

While the existence of a business associate relationship is not dependent on a formal agreement, should you be asked to sign one, there are several important aspects to any such agreement. You should consult an attorney experienced in this field to assist you.

Carlton Fields will continue monitoring developments related to HIPAA. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information regarding HIPAA compliance and enforcement.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Carlton Fields | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Carlton Fields

Carlton Fields on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.