HITRUST compliance provides organizations with one integrated framework to meet compliance requirements from many regulations like HIPAA, NIST, SOC 2, and others.
With growing data security risks, it has become crucial to comply with these standards in order to deter security hazards and avoid penalties.
However, meeting compliance requirements can be complex and subject to frequent changes, making the process challenging.
For this, adhering to HITRUST compliance standards can help you overcome these challenges by including various standards and business requirements in one framework in order to protect sensitive data and manage risks.
In this article, I’ll discuss HITRUST compliance in the simplest terms so you can meet the requirements and enhance data protection in your organization.
What Is HITRUST Compliance?
The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) is an organization that provides standards for data protection along with security programs in order to help companies protect sensitive data, manage data risks, and meet compliance requirements.
HITRUST compliance is an organization’s adherence to meet regulatory requirements concerning data protection, privacy, and risk management. It aligns with various compliance standards, including but not limited to HIPAA, ISO, NIST, SOC 2, and others, and is the only organization that provides an assessment platform and a framework to achieve compliance.
HITRUST compliance includes various frameworks, standards, regulations, and regional laws apart from business requirements integrated into a single framework, called the HITRUST Framework.
So, instead of putting efforts into meeting all the individual regulatory requirements separately, you can go through just one assessment, i.e., HITRUST, and determine whether you are compliant or not.
This framework covers many security controls and helps organizations meet regulatory requirements and protect PHI, ePHI, medical records, and other healthcare data from exploitation.
Moreover, HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF) certification provides a roadmap to compliance for organizations from all sectors, specifically the healthcare sector. HITRUST compliance serves as a gold standard in cybersecurity, ensuring organizations solve data security challenges through various security and privacy controls.
Although HITRUST was founded in 2007 and designed originally for healthcare, other sectors can also use it since its security and privacy controls are industry-agnostic.
Advantages of HITRUST Compliance
Many organizations, especially from the healthcare and information security sectors, meet HITRUST compliance to minimize risks, costs, and complexities related to data security and management. Here are the benefits it offers:
One of the primary reasons why many organizations, especially healthcare institutes, prefer HITRUST compliance is because it simplifies the process to meet regulatory requirements. It also lets organizations understand the security controls that companies need to address.
Better Risk Management
Adherence to HITRUST compliance helps organizations maintain the best practices required for data protection. It provides a robust framework to assess and manage data privacy and security risks both internally and externally (vendors and third parties). This reduces the risk of data breaches.
Conforming to HITRUST compliance enables companies to enhance their overall security posture. For this, it covers a wide range of security controls that include encryption, access controls, incident response, and more. Moreover, HITRUST regularly updates its methodologies and solutions to help you stay ahead of evolving standards as well as threats.
Secure Data Transmission
HITRUST helps organizations securely send sensitive data by incorporating robust security controls and end-to-end encryption. It doesn’t restrict organizations in data transmission volumes; instead, it advocates the use of data transmission with proper security.
Adherence to HITRUST compliance allows an organization to get a competitive advantage over its competitors. It shows that the organization follows a rigorous policy for data security. This helps them gain more attention from clients, stakeholders, investors, partners, and customers, as everyone appreciates working with a company that follows security practices.
HITRUST compliance unifies different regulatory standards and regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, ISO, and PCI-DSS. Thus, it becomes easier for you to stay compliant with a variety of cybersecurity regulations under one roof instead of achieving compliance one by one.
Importance of HITRUST Compliance in Healthcare
HITRUST compliance holds a high significance in the cybersecurity of healthcare and information security sectors. It enables these industries to take a rigorous approach toward data protection and management.
Protection of Sensitive Patient Data
HITRUST compliance allows organizations to meet their commitment to the protection of sensitive patient data and ePHI. The organization provides a certification program through which you can showcase how you protect patient data and the security measures you take to accomplish this.
Robust Security Framework
HITRUST enables healthcare organizations to deploy a robust security framework that helps them cover various aspects of their security posture. By assisting in deploying effective security controls and a strong approach to security, HITRUST compliance helps organizations address potential security risks and vulnerabilities with ease.
The risk-based approach of HITRUST helps organizations to assess and prioritize threats and vulnerabilities that can have the most impact. It also enables security teams to use their resources in the right place and remediate issues faster.
Meeting Various Regulatory Requirements
Industries like healthcare are highly regulated. Hence, these must adhere to strict standards and regulations applicable in the region where healthcare institutions operate. HITRUST compliance provides a unified framework that helps organizations from these sectors align with various regulatory requirements and avoid penalties.
Proactive Against Threats
With increasing cybersecurity threats, it has become vital for organizations to stay proactive against all kinds of threats. When organizations opt for HITRUST compliance, it helps them to take a proactive approach against emerging threats and stay updated with all the necessary solutions to mitigate them.
Organizations operating in the health and information sectors often deal with third-party vendors and interconnected systems. This increases the attack surface of the organization. HITRUST compliance helps the organization implement necessary security controls and mitigate associated risks across complex infrastructure and supply chains.
HITRUST and Other Standards
HITRUST, through its comprehensive framework, integrates with top industry regulations and standards. Let’s understand how HITRUST and regulations and standards sink in.
#1. HIPAA and HITRUST
HITRUST is explicitly designed to address the standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability ACT (HIPAA) by implementing controls and requirements that align with its rules. HITRUST has designed its access control, audit logging, breach notification, and risk-based approach in such a way that it aligns with HIPAA requirements.
#2. PCI-DSS and HITRUST
HITRUST also includes the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) along with controls like encryption and access control to secure payment details. HITRUST enables organizations to utilize CSF’s access controls and encryption to adhere to the requirements of PCI-DSS.
#3. ISO and HITRUST
Since HITRUST serves as a unified framework, it also helps your organization meet the standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
HITRUST CSF delivers a structured approach to implementing controls that adhere to all ISO standards for information security management. It’s suitable for organizations wanting to adhere to ISO 270001 regulations.
#4. GDPR and HITRUST
Unlike HIPAA or PCI-DSS, HITRUST CSF is not exclusively designed to cater to the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
However, the way its risk management and privacy controls have been created can help organizations from the information security and health sectors address GDPR requirements. It provides organizations with a robust framework to secure data and showcase accountability.
#5. NIST and HITRUST
If your organization is finding it challenging to address the requirements of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), then adopting HITRUST CSF can help you out.
HITRUST has designed its CSF’s control in such a way that it creates a correlation with NIST’s privacy and security controls with that of HITRUST CSF’s controls. Since CSF implements a wide range of controls, it allows your organization to align with NIST control guidelines.
Steps to Achieve HITRUST Compliance
HITRUST requires you to go through a strict assessment process to achieve compliance. You can do it independently or through HITRUST assessors.
The compliance process is slightly lengthy but depends upon the organization’s size and complexities. Here are the steps to achieve compliance.
Step 1: Download the HITRUST CSF Framework
The first thing you will need to do is download the latest HITRUST CSF framework from the official HITRUST site and go through every requirement carefully.
Step 2: Choose a HITRUST Assessor
Now, you must choose an authorized HITRUST assessor who will help assess your security controls and risk management against the HITRUST CSF framework. This is an optional process as you can also conduct gap analysis by yourself.
Step 3: Analyze the Scope
In the next step, you will have to determine the scope, and for that, you will need to conduct a gap analysis of the target control with that of the existing control. You can also perform a readiness assessment to review the security controls, procedures, and policies and find out where your organization requires improvement.
Step 4: Gap Remediation Plan
Depending upon your scope analysis and readiness assessment, the HITRUST assessor will develop a gap remediation plan so that nothing can impact the compliance process. The plan will have guidelines, policies, procedures, and controls to approach and solve issues.
After conducting gap remediation, you will have to integrate the control, encryption, and policies to remediate the gaps.
Step 5: Perform the HITRUST Assessment
In this step, an authorized HITRUST assessor will conduct the HITRUST assessment process. These individuals will not only assess your organization’s security controls and policies but also procedures and integrations.
The authorized assessor will interview the employees of your organization and understand their commitment to security controls and policies. For this, you must provide all the necessary evidence they will ask for in order to show that your organization caters to HITRUST’s requirements.
Step 6: Address the Issues
During the assessment process, some issues may arise. The HITRUST-authorized assessor will provide you with the report along with remediation recommendations. Your team has to address them quickly and give the final report.
If the assessor is satisfied with your report, it will put your organization into a 90-day no-change period. The assessor will do a complete review and submit the final report to the HITRUST organization.
Step 7: Get The HITRUST Certification
If HITRUST is satisfied with the final report, it will issue the certification – the HITRUST certification. It will indicate that you have achieved HITRUST compliance. However, you must regularly be aligned with the HITRUST framework to maintain and stay compliant.
Challenges in Pursuing HITRUST Compliance
Achieving HITRUST compliance benefits an organization in many ways, but there are several challenges one has to face while pursuing it. These challenges are:
High Completion Time
One of the biggest roadblocks in pursuing HITRUST compliance is the significant time it takes to complete the whole process. Even organizations with robust security posture can take around 200 hours for the certification process.
HITRUST CSF includes numerous regulations and standards, so adhering to all the requirements to stay compliant with HITRUST CSF can be complex. Moreover, organizations have to align with the controls continuously to maintain compliance, which could be tough due to changing needs and the workforce.
Achieving HITRUST compliance can be a costly affair as it requires significant investment. You will need to hire an external HITRUST assessor to help you in the compliance process. You will also need to allocate resources for your internal teams carefully to minimize waste.
To stay compliant with HITRUST CSF, you must maintain the requirements of HITRUST compliance continuously.
So, sustaining compliance can be challenging for many organizations as needs change, new products and services are added to satisfy growing demands, and the investment is significant.
Many organizations work with different third-party vendors for various services, and every vendor has their own security posture. So, the third-party vendor you work with must also adhere to HITRUST compliance, which could be tricky.
You will have to allocate teams and resources properly and assess and monitor their security controls and practices continuously. This will ensure they are also following best practices and are continuously compliant with regulatory requirements.
How Organizations Have Achieved HITRUST Compliance
Take a look at some use cases of how different organizations have achieved successful compliance.
#1. Healthcare Institutions
Healthcare organizations achieve HITRUST compliance by assessing their existing security measures and identifying gaps across hospitals and clinics. After that, they conduct a remediation process by improving access controls, implementing encryption, and enhancing risk management and response.
Healthcare institutes hire HITRUST consultants who assess all the controls and validate them. If everything aligns with the requirement, HITRUST provides the certification.
#2. Financial Organizations
Financial organization handling sensitive data follows a lengthy process to achieve HITRUST compliance.
First, they map the HITRUST CSF controls with existing security controls and then perform a gap analysis. In the meantime, the institutes conduct security training programs, implement encryption, and initiate a continuous monitoring process.
These organizations, too, hire a third-party HITRUST-authorized auditor who audits the security framework to check whether it aligns with the HITRUST controls. After verification, they provide the certification to the organization.
#3. Telecommunication Firms
Telecommunication organizations also opt for HITRUST compliance to demonstrate their commitment to the protection of customer information. They conduct a continuous risk assessment, vulnerability management, and data encryption to reduce the attack surface.
Telecommunication organizations regularly update their access controls and deploy intrusion detection to improve overall security posture. They also conduct training programs to help teams perform best security practices. By aligning their security practices with the HITRUST requirements, many telecommunication organizations have achieved compliance successfully.
HITRUST CSF serves as a complete framework by including various regulations and standards. Once your organization achieves HITRUST compliance, you can stay assured you meet all the requirements of various standards, including HIPAA, ISO, PCI-DSS, etc.
So, follow the above steps to achieve HITRUST compliance and protect your organization’s data, manage it effortlessly, and avoid penalties.
Amrita is a freelance copywriter and content writer. She helps brands enhance their online presence by creating awesome content that connects and converts. She has completed her Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Aeronautical Engineering…. read more
Narendra Mohan Mittal
Narendra Mohan Mittal is a Senior Digital Branding Strategist and Content Editor with over 12 years of versatile experience. He holds an M-Tech (Gold Medalist) and B-Tech (Gold Medalist) in Computer Science & Engineering.
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