What are the Physical Safeguards of HIPAA?

The Physical Safeguards really have to do with who has access to PHI data and how that access is managed. Much of the Physical Safeguard requirements that developers need to worry about are handled by HIPAA compliant hosting companies (such as AWS, Firehost and Rackspace).

Other parts of the Physical Safeguards are handled by your internal rules around who can and can’t access PHI.


Facility Access Controls

  • Contingency Operations (addressable): Establish (and implement as needed) procedures that allow facility access in support of data restoration under the disaster recovery and emergency operations plan in the event of an emergency.
  • Facility Security Plan (addressable): Implement policies and procedures to safeguard the facility and the equipment therein from unauthorized physical access, tampering, and theft.
  • Access Control and Validation Procedures (addressable): Implement procedures to control and validate a person’s access to facilities based on their role or function, including visitor control, and control of access to software programs for testing and revision.
  • Maintenance Records (addressable): Implement policies and procedures to document repairs and modifications to the physical components of a facility which are related to security (e.g. hardware, walls, doors, and locks).

Device and Media Controls

  • Disposal (required): Implement policies and procedures to address the final disposition of ePHI, and/or the hardware or electronic media on which it is stored.
  • Media Re-Use (required): Implement procedures for removal of ePHI from electronic media before the media are made available for re-use.
  • Accountability (addressable): Maintain a record of the movements of hardware and electronic media and any person responsible therefore.
  • Data Backup and Storage (addressable): Create a retrievable, exact copy of ePHI, when needed, before movement of equipment.

Workstation Security

  • Workstation Security (required): Implement physical safeguards for all workstations that access ePHI, to restrict access to authorized users.
  • Workstation Use (required): Implement policies and procedures that specify the proper functions to be performed, the manner in which those functions are to be performed, and the physical attributes of the surroundings of a specific workstation or class of workstation that can access ePHI.