The university recently finalized a business associate agreement allowing M+Box, a cloud-based file sharing and collaboration service, to be used for storing protected health information governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The new agreement most directly benefits students, faculty, and staff of the U-M Health System, the Medical School and the School of Nursing, and other schools, departments and programs that work with protected health information.

“This is great news for our researchers and staff because the service is easy to use, free, secure and robust,” says Cindy Leavitt, deputy chief information officer for Medical School Information Services. “Box is also the first major cloud vendor to sign a BAA that is acceptable to U-M, and we hope that many other vendors will follow.”

While protected health information now may be stored in M+Box, individuals should keep in mind that securing sensitive university data is a shared responsibility. They must still follow university and unit policies and procedures for handling and sharing PHI.

Other important points regarding this update:

• Students, faculty and staff of the Health System received separate communications with additional details and guidelines regarding their use of M+Box.

• The agreement applies only to Box Core Apps, not the Additional/Non-Core Apps offered by Box.

• As part of the negotiation process, U-M also extended its service agreement with Box until 2017 with a three-year automatic renewal at the end that period.

“The service expansion of M+Box supports our shared goal of creating a collaborative IT environment that promotes research, teaching and learning while providing a flexible, cloud-based solution that also appropriately safeguards patient data,” says Laura Patterson, U-M’s chief information officer. “I think this will be a real game changer for many on campus whose work or research is health-related.”

M+Box, which became available to U-M in early 2012, provides 50 gigabytes of individual storage and up to 500 gigabytes for shared accounts at no charge.

The service allows users to:

• Share and discuss documents with others inside and outside of U-M.

• Access files via the Web and from a wide range of mobile devices.

• Keep track of multiple versions of documents automatically.

• Lock documents while editing, so that others cannot accidentally overwrite changes.