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HITRUST 101: What You Need to Know

For the healthcare industry, it is no surprise that meeting compliance standards for the proper handling  of sensitive data is critical. There are many strict guidelines to follow across your entire organization, including all employees and even the partners you work with. If an organization fails to meet these standards, major consequences will follow.

We all have heard about HIPAA and the myriad of other regulations that have been a part of healthcare compliance for many years now, but there is officially a new certification on the block. This certification not only provides the highest standard for third-party vendors to meet, but is now almost essential in order to remain credible and competitive.

You probably already guessed what it is by the title of this blog, but how familiar are you with HITRUST? Read along to learn about the ins and outs of achieving HITRUST CSF certification. I’ll be diving into its history, its benefits, and some best practices to adhere to its guidelines (or partner with a provider that does).

What is HITRUST?

HITRUST stands for the Health Information Trust Alliance, which was founded back in 2007. The mission behind HITRUST is to safeguard sensitive information, manage information risk, and establish unified compliance standards for organizations across all sectors, especially healthcare, throughout the third-party supply chain. Additionally, HITRUST fills the voids some of the HIPAA regulations do not address.

According to the HITRUST website, they understand that there are challenges that come along with assembling and maintaining the wide variety of programs needed to manage risk and compliance. That is why the HITRUST approach provides organizations comprehensive information risk management and compliance programs with an integrated approach to ensure all programs are aligned, maintained, and holistically support an organization’s information risk management and compliance objectives.

A common mistake people make is not knowing that there is a difference between HITRUST and HIPAA.

HITRUST encompasses much more than HIPAA’s scope. HIPAA includes physical, technical, and administrative safeguards. On the other hand, HITRUST includes:

  • The HIPAA Security Rule
  • Control Objectives for Information Related Technology (COBIT)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Risk Management Framework
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Red Flags Rule
  • Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Addressable Risk Safeguards (CMS ARS)
  • Federal and State Regulations

HITRUST established the HITRUST CSF to give a framework to organizations who create, assess, store, or exchange personal health and financial information. This framework provides organizations with an efficient, comprehensive approach to compliance and risk management and has now become the most popular and widely-adopted security framework in U.S healthcare.

HITRUST CSF Certification

While there is not an official certification for HIPAA, there is one for HITRUST. Achieving HITRUST CSF certification is more than just a badge of recognition. It proves you can effectively handle and safeguard protected health information or PHI.

This certification goes out to vendors who successfully pass the demanding assessment. The assessment is comprised of multiple rounds of security audits that will identify potential vulnerabilities. The vendor then needs to take action and make the necessary corrections. The HITRUST certification also requires an assessment to follow, but the length depends on the size and complexity of the organization.

Achieving this certification indicates that an organization has met the industry-defined requirements and is appropriately managing and handling risk when protecting patient data.

Choosing an IT provider that is HITRUST certified enables you to offload the responsibilities, ongoing time commitment, and hefty cost of becoming certified. It also allows you to take advantage of proven, best-in-class security measures like policies, procedures, and technology from someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes them. View it as adding an extension to your IT and Compliance Teams.

Benefits of HITRUST

When you think of HITRUST, you can compare it to doing a TSA Pre-check as you’re going through airport security. TSA Pre-check allows you to breeze through security because you’re a known entity and are pre-verified. The same goes for achieving HITRUST CSF certification. Many of the benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Up to date knowledge of the latest security risks
  • Saved resources (both time and money) on audits
  • Guaranteed, impenetrable security practices
  • Elevated competitive advantage
  • Consistency

One of the most important benefits that I did not include above is the credibility an organization gains by achieving this certification. It gives clients and consumers peace of mind knowing that an organization has taken the initiative and approved steps necessary to protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

Why is HITRUST Important for the Healthcare Industry?

Keeping up with regulatory requirements can feel like a never-ending task. This can be a challenge for any healthcare organization in today’s world, especially as threats and the protections against them continue to evolve at a rapid rate.

However, when a third-party vendor is HITRUST CSF certified, organizations can be confident that their vendor’s HIPAA and other mandates are always up to date as requirements change, without requiring your internal team to stay educated and constantly on top of it.

The healthcare industry should require its vendors to be HITRUST certified. You will rest easy knowing that the common toolkit is being used to secure sensitive data, and vendors can assure that their information technology meets the latest security standard.

With a certified IT provider, your organization saves serious time and money in preparation for an audit. This keeps the audit process simple, since you will already have much of the documentation and reports you need to prove your compliance efforts delivered directly to you from your partner.

How Does One Become HITRUST Certified?

While the timeframe depends on the size and complexity of an organization, the process can be daunting. In order to achieve HITRUST certification, you must successfully demonstrate your organization’s ability to meet all the controls in the CSF required for the current year’s certification. From there, you must score a rating of three or higher on HITRUST’s scale of one to five for most control domains documented in MyCSF.

Trust us, it is easier said than done. LightEdge has successfully achieved HITRUST certification ourselves, so we understand the intricacies and complexities involved. Here are some best practices to help ensure the best possible outcome for your certification process:

Step 1: Educate

Taking the step to become HITRUST certified doesn’t happen overnight and it’s definitely a team effort. You will need to spend time and energy educating employees on what HITRUST is and how it will benefit your organization and the clients you support.

Make sure you communicate how HITRUST impacts each employee and their roles in your organization. For example, HITRUST requires members of your Security Team to stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats and trends.

When everyone in your organization is on the same page about HITRUST, the process will go much more smoothly.

Step 2: Documentation

Documentation is key. If you don’t document your process, you won’t achieve this certification. To achieve HITRUST certification, you must be able to provide evidence that your organization is operating in accordance with the policies and procedures.

Step 3: Determine your CSF Assessor

This is an important step within your process. A CSF Assessor is a highly skilled professional who has already undergone this process and has met the requirements to do so. Make sure your accessor can stay cool under pressure and is used to dealing with facts and evidence-based data points. It will only help you in the long run. Having their validation will be a critical piece in your HITRUST journey as they will evaluate your performance and guide you in the right direction.

Step 4: Be Ready to Repeat

Your journey doesn’t end when you attain your HITRUST certification. This is an annual task, so you will need to repeat this process each year. Your organization must undergo annual reviews for the policies and procedures against which you were initially assessed. If you can’t repeat the process that you may have spent several months, or even years working on, you will lose your HITRUST certification altogether. Then you’re back to square one and risk losing business as a result.

LightEdge Knows HITRUST Compliance

Very few hosting providers have undergone the demanding process of attaining the HITRUST CSF Certification. With LightEdge as your partner in compliant hosting solutions, you’ll be able to confidently state that you have the clarity, backing, and stamp of HITRUST approval. All seven of our world-class data centers are HITRUST-compliant to keep your data safe.

The benefits are clear: you save considerable internal resources when it’s time for an audit, and you protect your customers’ critical data with complete faith. You can also quickly generate reports that map to the requirements of your regulations, including HIPAA, PCI, and ISO, and you will safeguard your brand from breaches with the expertise and backing of a trusted and recognized third-party.

LightEdge offers a free risk assessment from our Chief Security Officer as a resource to all of our customers. Compliance and security are top priorities to guarantee that your data is protected. Safeguard your brand from breaches with the certification of a trusted and recognized third-party.

LightEdge is compliant with:

If you are interested in getting a risk free assessment from our healthcare compliance experts, a tour of any of our HIPAA and HITRUST compliant data centers, or in learning more about LightEdge’s compliance as a service benefits, contact us here. We have cloud hosting, security, and compliance experts standing by to answer any of your questions.

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