Make the Right Choice to Protect Your Organization’s Healthcare Data

As the IT manager, CIO or the information security officer for your organization, you do all you can to maintain a high measure of security for your company’s sensitive healthcare data. Providing regular reassurances to third party stakeholders and patients helps instill and reinforce confidence in your organization, which is essential to stay competitive in the healthcare industry.

Not only do you need to consider your organization’s information security compliance in relation to stakeholders, but you also need to stay in compliance according with certain federal and governmental regulations, rules and laws.

Both HIPAA and HITRUST offer guidelines and strategies to keep up with the latest healthcare industry regulations that help keep your information secure for your organization’s benefit, as well as for the benefit of any third parties and patients.

What is HIPAA?

Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, along with the Security Rule in place, was put in place to protect electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). Your entity might use HIPAA if it functions as a healthcare provider, a healthcare plan, a clearinghouse, or any other type of covered entity that works with confidential electronic data in or related to the healthcare industry.

The HIPAA Security Rule examines three different security parameters — physical, technical and administrative — along with a set of various organizational and document requirements, policies and procedures with which your organization must comply.

What Does HIPAA Protect?

While HIPAA (“the Act”) further defines health insurance reform under Title IV, Title III extends tax-related provisions for medical care, Title I provides health insurance protection during job changes, and Title V covers provisions on company-owned life insurance, the Act is primarily known for Title II, which sets the national standards to protect electronic healthcare transactions.

What is HITRUST?

The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) works on the principle that information security is an integral part of the modern healthcare industry’s increasing use of technology to collect, organize and store electronic healthcare data. HITRUST’s designers include a collaborative body of leaders in healthcare, technology, business and information security.

The industry pioneers in this privately held entity believe that the free exchange of healthcare information through electronic means can only further the industry’s standards. However, HITRUST’s members — including those same leaders from the healthcare, technology and information security industries — and their Board of Directors understand that, since one in three Americans’ healthcare records were exposed to hackers via data breaches in 2015 alone, data protection is paramount to maintaining patient and third party stakeholder trust.

What HITRUST Is Not and What the HITRUST Is

HITRUST, in itself, is not a framework within which you can work to maintain optimal data protection, but these industry leaders have pooled their respective backgrounds, ideas and goals to create the framework known as the HITRUST CSF framework. The HITRUST CSF offers anyone handling sensitive healthcare data the quintessential framework a comprehensive base of information, controls and tools to achieve high levels of security to stay in compliance with confidence and ease.

The HITRUST CSF gathers all updates on regulations, rules and laws from various federal entities that cover information security in the healthcare industry, including HIPAA. Featuring 19 control categories and three levels of implementation, the HITRUST CSF covers nearly anything you can imagine, from network protection and vulnerability management to physical and environmental security. Each of the three levels of implementation follows a comprehensive trajectory with each progressive level containing implementation considerations from the previous level to ensure full coverage of three unique risk factors, which are organizational, systemic and regulatory.

Not only is the HITRUST CSF comprehensive, but it is also prescriptive and corrective, offering you ways to make necessary corrections to maintain the HITRUST CSF certification, which is an indicator of compliance and a reflection of your organization’s commitment to the highest standards of information security.


HIPAA vs. HITRUST: Which Is the Right Approach to Information Security for Your Organization?

Now, with some background on each approach to maintaining high standards in information security, it might help to look at what each one offers compared to the other to better help you make the best choice for your organization:

  • HITRUST uses HIPAA as part of its base and builds upon it within the structure of the HITRUST CSF. HITRUST takes HIPAA, which is a non-standardized framework that offers no prescriptive measures, and expands the underlying principles to create a standardized, prescriptive and certifiable framework.
  • HITRUST works to “harmonize” the various entities and frameworks set up by federal agencies. HITRUST gathers information from entities like HIPAA and PCI to create a comprehensive view of information security needs.
  • HITRUST answers to healthcare providers and those who pay healthcare costs, which is why the HITRUST CSF certification is so valuable. HIPAA, on the other hand, is more punitive than reward-based, defining penalties for data breaches.
  • A large part of the value of the HITRUST CSF certification comes the rigorous commitment from you and your staff. A HIPAA audit does not take nearly as much time, effort or resources, but it also does not offer the same benefits that the HITRUST CSF certification holds.
  • An Outside Assessment Firm Can Help You Sort Through the Fine Points of HIPAA and HITRUST

    At I.S. Partners, LLC., we can help you deconstruct the differences between HIPAA and HITRUST to decide the one that is right for your organization. We can also help you prepare for the appropriate assessments for either framework.

    Call us today at 215-675-1400 so we can work together to help you and your IT team create a safe and compliant environment for your organization’s sensitive electronic data.

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