HIPAA vs. HITRUST — and Why it Matters

HIPAA and HITRUST were designed as regulations and standards for ensuring that patient information is confidential and protected. Although these two terms are often used synonymously to discuss data protection, they are quite different — and bring a different value to digitally transforming industries beyond just healthcare, including banking.

HIPAA consists of several compliance regulations that healthcare organizations are required to meet, and HITRUST is a data security certification that ties in HIPAA’s regulations. While the two terms work together to secure patient information, there are a few key differences between being HIPAA-compliant and HITRUST-certified that organizations need to keep in mind when vetting a potential technology partner.

Building Foundation for Data Protection

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, is a regulatory baseline for data protection that ensures confidentiality, integrity and availability of all data. Regardless of whether the data is being created, received, maintained or transmitted, HIPAA simultaneously protects data against security threats. However, while HIPAA regulations lay out essential practices for protecting sensitive data, they do not offer a comprehensive security approach for evolving threats and liabilities.

In today’s digital world, data breaches continue to escalate because of unclear HIPAA standards that don’t appropriately protect sensitive data. This is critical because of the level of confidential information now accessible via mobile devices. Before HITRUST, the healthcare industry was also leaving the decision of the extent of data cybersecurity measures up to the covered entity and business associate they were working with — leaving digitally transforming clinics open to liability and potential damage control.

Due to vague HIPAA guidelines, organizations are often inadequately implementing sufficient security measures and rarely have the internal expertise and oversight resources to effectively manage HIPAA’s required and “optional” measures. This frequently leads to organizations implementing insufficient security processes and leaving their systems vulnerable to threats. HITRUST is a solution to some of the vague guidelines stated in HIPAA.

Creating a High Standard for Cybersecurity

HITRUST was established to maintain a security framework that ensures confidentiality of sensitive medical information in a way that is applicable and utilized by both covered entities and business associates. HITRUST developed its CSF certification to bring together many compliance frameworks, including HIPAA, PCI, ISO and NIST, among others.

As a result, HITRUST CSF was developed in connection with healthcare employees’ demands, and the CSF component streamlines the audit process for becoming HITRUST-certified – which provides organizations with an efficient, robust framework for all of the necessary security requirements that reach beyond HIPAA compliance.

By implementing the CSF framework, companies can specifically tailor the certification audit to their needs, with dozens of regulatory factors and standards choices. Organizations that select a HITRUST-certified IT provider as a technology partner can then have access to the best-in-class security, policies, procedures and technology, while transitioning away from the high costs and responsibilities associated with becoming HITRUST-certified themselves. When healthcare providers (or their partners) are HITRUST-certified, it lifts a weight off of the patients’ shoulders. HITRUST ensures this sensitive data is being handled properly and is less susceptible to data breaches, especially as their physicians seek to provide the best patient experience possible in the digital age.

HITRUST — and Banking? Why Certification Matters to More than Just Hospitals

For regional and community banks, which are the bulk of the financial institutions in North America, selecting a new vendor or partner involves an in-depth review of the offering and its related landscape — to ensure that the organization is making the best quality choice. However, these lean operations often don’t have the internal resources to separately review an artificial intelligence (AI) solution, voice technology or multimedia connection, and then conduct a security review on each one.

A HITRUST certification means that the organization in question (including its products) has already undergone rigorous scrutiny and is a verified-secure partner whose technology the bank could leverage for its digital transformation without fear, hesitation or time spent on an additional internal review.

Today, digital banking involves a lot more than just an online web portal; it also incorporates automated transfers via chatbots over text, video tellers in physical branches, virtual banking appointments and emerging deposit technology. The more points-of-contact customers come to expect from their banks, the more types of technology those banks will need to deploy — and, potentially, the more tech vendors they’ll have to review. In this evolving ecosystem, it makes sense that HITRUST certification would start to become significant for those in financial services; even though it’s not specifically geared toward that industry.

HIPAA and HITRUST: Working Together to Protect Patient Data

Although HIPAA remains a valuable security tool for healthcare overall, HITRUST’s enhanced security framework approach encourages organizations to do more than meet the minimum of HIPAA requirements.No formal process or certification exists today for HIPAA; however, an organization can become HITRUST-certified.Because the CSF integrates many existing requirements from HIPAA and other data protection frameworks, it essentially creates a universal protection standard — void of any inconsistencies.

Organizations handling patient information are required to follow HIPAA’s regulations, but in becoming a HITRUST-certified technology partner, they can ensure they’re enabling the best (and most secure) parts of any industry’s digital transformation.

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