Each year healthcare providers’ digital databases become increasingly vulnerable to cyber criminals. At the end of 2015, The HIPAA Journal reported that, “while 2014 was widely considered “The Year of the Data Breach,” 2015 simply hadn’t arrived yet; however, it soon took on the title of “Year of the Mega Healthcare Data Breach.”
The same article cited a white paper provided by Experian, which forecasted that the following 12 months will likely deliver the same, and probably even more, digital criminal behavior. In other words, there is no reason to let your guard down when it comes to your confidential customer data if you are responsible for the digital security of a HIPAA-related entity in 2016 and beyond.
The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) and its associated CSF framework provides you and your IT team with a revolutionary way to protect vital electronic healthcare information.
What is the HITRUST CSF?
The HITRUST CSF was created and developed to address the many security, privacy and regulatory challenges that face healthcare organizations. More specifically, HITRUST Alliance functions as a privately held, independent non-profit company based in the United States and works in conjunction with healthcare, technology and information security leaders. Together, these groups worked with HITRUST to establish the CSF, which serves as a security baseline for all organizations that work with regulated data in any capacity. Any time healthcare and other regulated agencies create, access, store or exchange sensitive data — particularly data related to patient or customer confidentiality — they can refer to the CSF as a guide that features controls established to help them adhere to HITRUST’s requirements, regulations and standards.
The CSF works as a certifiable information security framework that acts as an actionable guide that addresses specific needs, considerations, rules and regulations within the healthcare industry for its electronic data.
Who Needs to Use HITRUST CSF?
Any entity that works to protect entities where patients or clients must submit certain personal data that, in the wrong hands, can cause chaos in their lives due to identity theft and other fraudulent activities. The HITRUST Executive Council monitors the needs of different types of professionals related to the healthcare industry who benefit from working within the CSF and features members who are leaders within several relevant industry sectors. These IT professionals in healthcare related fields work together to help determine the need to add a new industry to their initial list of vendor types, (healthcare and others), including the following:
- Security professionals who help businesses protect their data
- Technology infrastructure managers who are responsible for their employers’ company data and customers’ data
- Professional services firms that collect a variety of sensitive client data
- Healthcare providers who collect an array of critical personal patient data
- Pharmacies, like healthcare providers, who retain a glut of sensitive patient data
- Health plans that any industry business’ HR teams manage
- Medical device managers from whom patients order supplies, leaving a path of electronic data
- Information networks and clearinghouses
- Payment card companies
How Does HITRUST CSF Help Keep Your Healthcare Organizations’ Private Data Secure?
The HITRUST CSF includes several key pieces of criteria — state and federal standards, regulations and frameworks — to create a dynamic collaborative framework, which is both comprehensive and flexible and features authoritative and adaptable security controls to make sure your system can keep up with the continually and rapidly changing digital landscape.
Some of the basic security risks that the CSF might help you combat include the following:
- Redundancies and inconsistencies regarding standards and regulations at all levels
- Inefficiencies of adhering to regulations and standards due to misinterpretations and lack of communication
- Confusion regarding acceptable minimal controls and application of those controls
- Increasing presence and scrutiny from regulators, underwriters, auditors, customers and business associates
- Growing risks and liabilities from various potential threats, such as regulatory violations, and from outside invaders who try to break into your system with data breaches or commit extortion with your company’s sensitive data as leverage
Considering the recent relentless uptick in cyberattacks on entities in the healthcare industry, the CSF helps fill in security gaps that your own measures might not catch. It might serve as comfort to know that you have a partner working a few steps ahead of you to help bridge any gaps in information security for your healthcare provider. By working within this framework, the HITRUST CSF helps you quickly and accurately identify issues and hurdles that lie before you and your IT team as you confidently store and access your data while protecting your healthcare organization’s informational assets and developing trust and efficiencies to better facilitate the electronic flow of data in the healthcare system.
Additional specific benefits that your organization will experience by relying on HITRUST CSF include the following:
- Allows for cross-referencing confidential patient data across multiple healthcare networks, adhering to globally recognized and adopted standards, business requirements and industry regulations, which include HIPAA, HITECH, NIST, FTC, PCI and COBIT
- Examines each organization to explore what types of accommodations and adaptations each entity needs, based on type, size and classification of the entity
- Gives the option to adopt and use alternate controls when necessary
- Relies on and implements user input and changing conditions in the healthcare industry to help determine the need for evolution of the current version of the requirements, regulations and standards
- Uses authoritative sources to cross-reference data for clarity, structure and ease of use