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What Is HITRUST? A Quick Overview Of Healthcare’s Top Security Framework

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What Is HITRUST? A Quick Overview Of Healthcare’s Top Security Framework

HITRUST, which stands for Health Information Trust Alliance, is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2007.

The organization works in collaboration with privacy, information security and risk management leaders from the public and private sectors to develop, maintain and provide broad access to its widely adopted common risk and compliance management and de-identification frameworks designed to keep the healthcare industry safe and secure.

The mission of this company is to champion programs that safeguard sensitive information and manage information risk for organizations across the healthcare industry and throughout the third-party supply chain.

This means that, in addition to an organization like a hospital being HITRUST certified, there are also opportunities for software and other data-collecting companies that work in the healthcare industry to become certified, too.

Essentially, HITRUST is the gold standard compliance framework within the healthcare industry, having created the most commonly applied security framework in the USA. This framework is known as the “Common Security Framework” (or CSF).

What Is The HITRUST Common Security Framework?

The common security framework combines many different security standards within the healthcare industry, including HIPAA, HITCH, PCI, COBIT, NIST, and FTC.

The idea behind this framework is that it harmonizes and cross-references existing, globally recognized standards and business requirements to create prescriptive requirements that ensure clarity is being given.

HITRUST’s common security framework follows a risk-based approach, offering multiple levels of implementation requirements determined by specific risk threshold, meaning it caters to the type, size and complexity of an organization.

These specifications also mean that the adoption of alternate controls can be brought into play if and when necessary.

Why Is HITRUST So Important?

The growth of technology within the healthcare industry relies on security and compliance.

Payers and providers of digital products within the industry must make sure their software products are built and deployed with the highest security measures in mind.

Without the common security framework from HITRUST, making sure that digital products comply with other things, like HIPAA, can be difficult, as can implementing sanctions when things do not go to plan.

This is because HIPAA requirements—and requirements from other regulations this framework has set to clarify—can sometimes be vague, and provides no specific, legal point regarding when someone is breaching the regulations.

One great example of this is that HIPAA may use wording along the lines of ‘reasonable and appropriate’, without defining what reasonable actually is.

By taking the time to clarify this diverse set of regulations and standards into a single overarching security framework, organizations are empowered and able to tailor their security controls to their own specific business sector regulations.

Another reason why HITRUST is so important is that, unlike other organizations, the common security framework evolves according to user input, changing conditions, and regulatory environment on an annual basis. This, in turn, ensures that the best security measures are in place for healthcare organizations and their digital entities at all times.

Does All Healthcare Companies Have To Be HITRUST Compliant?

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The short answer to this is probably.

The longer answer is that any company that creates, accesses, stores or exchanges personal health information must be HITRUST compliant.

This includes basically every healthcare organization you can think of, even those who do not directly deal with patients on a face-to-face basis. This includes hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacies, healthcare vendors and physician offices, just to name a few.

Although your organization has to be HITRUST compliant, it does not have to be HITRUST certified.

If you choose not to go through with this process, however, you could be lagging behind, not least because the framework is considered to be the healthcare security framework of the future.

Why Your Organization Should Be HITRUST Certified

Data breaches are a big problem for healthcare organizations, with 1093 total breaches reported in 2016 alone, and without HITRUST, your organization is extremely vulnerable to a cyber attack.

You might not think that a data breach is a big deal, or that it can be easily fixed, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

In fact, in 2017, HealthcareWeekly reported that data breaches cost an organization an average of $380 per record. Just image the hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars this could cost a big organization.

It isn’t just the monetary side of things you need to worry about, however.

A data breach puts you in a position where your patients and customers no longer trust you to keep their information safe.

This could decrease the amount of custom your healthcare organization receives as your clients switch to other, HITRUST certified companies for the added protection.

Sure, there’s always the ability to regain the trust of your clients, but wouldn’t you rather keep the trust you’ve already built up by going through the necessary procedures to become HITRUST certified instead?

How Long Does It Take To Become HITRUST Certified?

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The initial self-assessment stage of the HITRUST certification process takes between 2-8 weeks, depending on a multitude of factors including the size and complexity of the organization and the scoped environment.

According to Digital Authority Partners, it can then take a further 6 weeks for the validated assessment to be processed in order for a company to receive the certified status from HITRUST.

Usually, once a firm is ready for the assessment to begin, the entire process can be completed in 3 to 4 months.

It’s worth bearing in mind that organizations must be reassessed every year to remain HITRUST compliant.

This is because data management and risks increase over time, and each healthcare organization must ensure they are staying up to date with the latest and greatest security measures.

Though this can be a hassle for busy organizations, the assessment does get quicker and easier to complete as the years go on, with the first year being the hardest.

Summary

To put it simply, HITRUST certification is something that every healthcare organization needs to bear in mind.

Not only does it protect you from data breaches, but it also allows you to have yearly assessments that ensure your organization remains patient-centered. HITRUST  gives you more time to look after patients once initial assessments have been carried out, without having to worry about stopping your services if a breach does occur.

This post comes from Codrin Arsene, CEO @ Digital Authority Partners

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