HITRUST vs HIPAA: The Comparison

Achieving and maintaining HIPAA compliance is essential for healthcare organizations.

With $5.65 million in HIPAA compliance fines in 2021, the consequences of failing to remain HIPAA compliant can extend beyond extensive compliance fines, all the way to reputation loss.

Often confused with HIPAA, HITRUST is an privately-held organization that certifies the security program of companies against a number of industry regulations, among them HIPAA compliance.

To learn more about how HITRUST and HIPAA are related, how they differ, and why healthcare organizations often rely on both for achieving HIPAA compliance, our article will reveal all.

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a U.S. federal law that became active in 1996.

Expanded in 2013 under the Omnibus Rule, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act imposes legal requirements for healthcare organizations and their business partners, ensuring the safe practice and security of sensitive patient health information.

Violations of HIPAA requirements can result in fines starting at no less than $25,000. 

When broken down, HIPAA rules are comprised of:

  • Security rules
  • Privacy rules
  • Breach notification rules

Without HIPAA establishing national data protection standards for covered entities and business partners, there would be more healthcare fraud, limited health insurance portability and less security and privacy of health information.

One staggering statistic that helps drive home the importance of becoming regulatory compliant would be how the number of healthcare data breaches has more than tripled recently, from 199 data breaches in 2010 to 642 data breaches in 2020.

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What is HITRUST?

HITRUST, an privately-owned company known as the Health Information Trust Alliance, is often misconstrued with HIPAA. Perhaps it’s the acronyms, who knows? All the same, HITRUST is not a data compliance mandate like the Health Insurance Portability and Account Act (HIPAA).

Instead, HITRUST is staffed by security professionals, and operates as an independent testing organization that stresses data, systems and information security above all else. Working with various technology partners, including some  healthcare industry leaders, HITRUST created and maintains the Common Security Framework (CSF).

Healthcare organizations seeking HIPAA regulatory compliance can use the HITRUST CSF to address compliance faults and security risks, but it is not so straightforward.

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How HIPAA & HITRUST Work Together

In U.S. healthcare today, the HITRUST CSF is one of the many security frameworks used.

In addition to helping organizations obtain HIPAA compliance, HITRUST CSF also aids in PCI, NIST and ICO regulations. With controls to specific HIPAA standards and specifications built into the HITRUST CSF, CSF controls help healthcare companies implement and meet compliance requirements based on:

  • System risk factors
  • Regulatory risk factors
  • Organizational risk factors

For organizations wanting to comply with HITRUST for HIPAA compliance, there are three options available, also known as Degrees of Assurance:

  • Self-Assessment – Using the myCSF tool, healthcare organizations can conduct self-assessments to identify compliance weak points with HITRUST
  • CSF Validated – Following the CSF assessment and the fixing of compliance issues, a third-party CSF assessor verifies the assessment information with an onsite visit and issues a validated report
  • CSF Certified – A step above CSF Validated, a HITRUST CSF Certification is granted after HITRUST reviews and certifies the organization’s assessment information and the CSF assessors’s validation. HITRUST CSF Certifications are active for two years 

For even more information regarding HIPAA compliance, check out these articles.

Major Differences Between HITRUST HIPAA 

Don’t let the similarity fool you. HIPAA and HITRUST, as similar as they may appear, are different.

Let’s take a look at a few ways how:

  • HIPAA is a U.S. law while HITRUST is an independently operated organization
  • HITRUST provides certifications, HIPAA does not provide certification (and specifically disavows any third-party certifications)
  • HITRUST CSF Certifications are much more rigorous than HIPAA auditing

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The case of HITRUST vs HIPAA is not one built on differences, but instead on how HITRUST helps healthcare organizations achieve and maintain HIPAA compliance.

With controls built into the HITRUST CSF, data administrators and health insurers can be fairly confident that their organization is on the right side of HIPAA security rule.

Since HIPAA does not provide accreditations, external audits are commonly used to help achieve HIPAA compliance.

When using third-party organizations to aid in compliance, it’s ideal to have a signed business associate agreement detailing the security controls deployed. While not all healthcare payers require HITRUST CSF Certifications, many do as it adds an extra layer of transparency.

Ensure HIPAA HITRUST Compliance with Techumen

Achieving and maintaining compliance requires a deep understanding of clinical processes, regulations and the latest cybersecurity measures.

Eliminate the hassles of maintaining HIPAA and HITRUST compliance with Techumen.

Having served more than 1,030 healthcare organizations, we’ve created a track record built on the success of our 2,087 completed audits.

With Techumen in your corner, you can:

  • Perform HIPAA audits
  • Conduct HIPAA Assessments
  • Carry out HIPAA Security Assessments
  • Streamline HITRUST Assessments and certifications

With a 100% HHS/CMS audit pass rate, we pride ourselves in delivering impeccable value.

With senior team members tackling every project and our fixed cost pricing, healthcare organizations continue to trust us for protecting their sensitive data and becoming regulatory compliant.

To learn more about how Techumen can help you become compliant, speak with one of our compliance specialists today.