For many healthcare organizations, the HITRUST certification process might seem to be too challenging. After all, attaining certification can require a significant investment in time, resources, and budget.
But organizations that successfully achieve certification can realize important business benefits. By implementing the security and privacy controls required for certification, companies can better protect their business from potentially devastating cyber attacks.
At the same time, using HITRUST certification to clearly demonstrate compliance with HIPAA rules and other regulations can provide a vital point of differentiation in a highly competitive field.
Is your organization weighing the pros and cons of HITRUST certification? Understanding what certification is, what challenges you might encounter, and why certification is worth the effort can help inform your decision making and prepare you for the journey ahead.
What is HITRUST Certification?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandated the creation of national standards for safeguarding sensitive patient health information.
Those standards were subsequently created by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Complying with HIPAA privacy and security rules is mandatory for health providers, insurers, clearinghouses, and other organizations that handle protected health information (PHI).
But until HITRUST certification was created, demonstrating that compliance—to partners, patients, auditors, or others—was not easy.
HITRUST certification indicates that an organization has met the rigorous requirements of HIPAA, or other rules and standards. Achieving HITRUST certification is not mandatory, but because certification reliably identifies compliant companies, more and more healthcare organizations are requiring that their partners and service providers carry that certification.
What is the HITRUST Common Security Framework?
As part of the HITRUST certification process, your organization will need to implement a number of privacy and security controls listed in the HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF).
This framework brings together a variety of regulations and standards into a single, comprehensive security and privacy reference.
In addition to HIPAA-related controls, the HITRUST CSF covers controls related to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
There are more than 1,800 controls listed in the HITRUST CSF. Not all businesses need to implement all controls to qualify for HITRUST certification. But you still might need to implement several hundred.
What are the challenges of achieving HITRUST certification?
Achieving certification is not easy. It is a multi-step process that can be extremely time-consuming. Even for low-risk companies, initial certification could take more than 200 hours. And because certification is an ongoing process, your organization must continue to invest a significant portion of time for years to come.
All the hours your team spends on implementing and attesting to controls are hours they are not spending on innovation.
The certification process is also costly. Beyond paying the wages of your internal teams to implement new controls, you will need to hire an external, HITRUST-approved assessor to help guide you through the process.
Nevertheless, the time, resources, and money you commit to certification can deliver a strong ROI. Certification can help you effectively address security concerns and maintain compliance with HIPAA and other regulations while also growing your business.
How does HITRUST certification help address security concerns?
Given the challenges of achieving HITRUST certification, why should your organization pursue it? First and foremost, your efforts toward attaining certification will help protect your business from cybersecurity threats.
The healthcare industry is targeted by cybercriminals more frequently than any other industry. In 2020, for example, healthcare organizations accounted for 79 percent of all attacks.
When hackers are successful, they can tap into—and sell—a wealth of personal information, including names, addresses, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. For small and medium-sized healthcare organizations, the high cost of recovering from a breach can force their company out of business.
Implementing HITRUST CSF controls relating to information access, security policies, asset management, and physical security, can help you avoid becoming a victim of a business-killing cyber attack. Just as important, putting the right controls in place will help assure potential partners that your organization won’t become an avenue for attacks that impact their businesses.
How can HITRUST certification help you maintain compliance?
Healthcare organizations must adhere to a wide array of laws, standards, and rules—not only HIPAA regulations but also other industry, federal, state, local, and international regulations. These regulations can change frequently.
HITRUST brings numerous regulations together into one framework. It also continually updates that framework to integrate new laws and rules, so you can keep up with the latest requirements.
Committing to HITRUST certification, then, can help you reduce the time and effort you might spend on otherwise disparate compliance activities.
How can HITRUST certification provide competitive differentiation?
HITRUST sets a high bar for certification. Because not all businesses can attain certification, those that do will have a clear advantage in a competitive field.
Potential partners and customers want to know that your business is as committed to protecting health information as they are. And they want to be sure that your business will not be a conduit for attacks that bring their business down. Your HITRUST certification will give them the confidence they need to work with you.
Certification is becoming a necessity.
Payers, providers, and other organizations have begun to demand HITRUST certification for new and existing business partners. Achieving certification is becoming critical for both acquiring new business and maintaining relationships.
Ready to learn more about certification?
Pursuing HITRUST certification might seem daunting. There’s no doubt that achieving certification can require a substantial investment in time, resources, and money.
But that investment can pay significant dividends. By working through the certification process and implementing the requisite controls, you can better protect your company, more easily maintain compliance even as regulations change, and gain a point of competitive differentiation that will enable you to grow your business.
Armed with the right knowledge and tools, your organization can accelerate the path to HITRUST, reduce costs, and minimize the resources required. Watch the on-demand webinar with AWS,Achieve HITRUST Faster and Accomplish More – with AWS and Cloudticity to learn how to reduce the cost and timeline of your HITRUST process.