AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog

AWS HIPAA Program Update – Removal of Dedicated Instance Requirement

Aaron Friedman is a Healthcare and Life Sciences Partner Solutions Architect with AWS

I love working with Healthcare Competency Partners in the AWS Partner Network (APN) as they deliver solutions that meaningfully impact lives. Whether building SaaS solutions on AWS tackling problems like electronic health records, or offering platforms designed to achieve HIPAA compliance for customers, our AWS Healthcare Competency Partners are constantly raising the bar on what it means to deliver customer-obsessed cloud-based healthcare solutions.

Our Healthcare Competency Partners who offer solutions that store, process, and transmit Protected Health Information (PHI) sign a Business Associate Addendum (BAA) with AWS. As part of the AWS HIPAA compliance program, Healthcare Competency Partners must use a set of HIPAA-eligible AWS services for portions of their applications that store, process, and transmit PHI. You can find additional technical guidance on how to configure those AWS services in our HIPAA security and compliance white paper. For any portion of your application that does not involve any PHI, you are of course able to use any of our 90+ services to deliver the best possible customer experience.

We are rapidly adding new HIPAA-eligible services under our HIPAA compliance program, and I am very excited to see how Healthcare Competency Partners are quickly adopting these new services as part of their solutions involving PHI. Today, I want to communicate a recent change to our HIPAA compliance program that should be positively received by many of our APN Partners in Healthcare and Life Sciences – APN Partners who have signed a BAA with AWS are no longer required to use Amazon EC2 Dedicated Instances and Dedicated Hosts to process PHI. APN Partners and other AWS customers should continue to take advantage of the features of VPC as they migrate from Dedicated Instances or Dedicated Hosts to default tenancy.

Over the years, we have seen tremendous growth in the use of the AWS Cloud for healthcare applications. APN Partners like Philips now store and analyze petabytes of PHI in Amazon S3, and others like ClearDATA provide platforms which align to HIPAA or HITRUST requirements for their customers to build on. Customer feedback drives 90+% of our roadmap, and when we heard many customers and APN Partners requesting this change, we listened.

Optimizing your architecture

One of our Leadership Principles at Amazon is “Invent and Simplify”. In the spirit of that leadership principle, I want to quickly describe several optimizations I anticipate APN Partners might make to simplify their architecture with the aforementioned change to the AWS HIPAA compliance program.

As always, if you have specific questions, please reach out to your Partner Manager or AWS Account Manager and they can pull in the appropriate resources to help you dive deeper into your optimizations.

Optimizing compute for cost and performance

With default tenancy on EC2, you can now use all currently available EC2 instance types for architecting applications to store, process, and transmit PHI. This means that you can leverage Spot instances for all instance types, such as for batch workloads, as well as use our burstable compute t2 family of EC2 instances in your applications, rather than using the m3 or m4 instance family.  You should continue to take advantage of the features of VPC as you migrate from Dedicated Instances or Dedicated Hosts to default tenancy.

Right-sizing for Microservices

Many of our Healthcare Competency Partners, especially those who build SaaS applications, use microservices architectures. They often use Amazon ECS for Docker container orchestration, which runs on top of Amazon EC2. The ability to use default tenancy EC2 instances for PHI will enable you to further right-size your applications by not having to factor in Dedicated Instances or Dedicated Hosts.

Simplifying your big data applications

Amazon EMR is a HIPAA-eligible service that many Healthcare Competency Partners use to analyze large datasets containing PHI. When using dedicated tenancy, these Partners needed to launch EMR clusters in VPCs with dedicated tenancy. This is how an architecture might look using dedicated tenancy, where the left side is a VPC with dedicated tenancy interacting with an Amazon S3 bucket containing PHI.

With the new update, you can logically consolidate these two VPCs into a single default tenancy VPC, which can simplify your architecture by removing components such as VPC peering and ensuring that your CIDR blocks didn’t overlap between VPCs.

Partner segregation by account rather than VPC

Many of our Healthcare Competency Partners, especially managed services providers (MSPs), prefer to segregate their customers or applications into different accounts for the purposes of cost allocation and compute/storage segregation. With the removal of the requirement Dedicated Instances or Dedicated Hosts, you can more easily segregate customers and applications into the appropriate accounts.

Conclusion

For more information on HIPAA on AWS, please see this blog post by our APN Compliance Program Leader, Chris Whalley, as well as check out our HIPAA in the Cloud page.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to your AWS Account Manager or Partner Manager, and they can help direct you to the appropriate AWS resources. You can also email apn-blog@amazon.com and we will route your questions to the appropriate individuals.