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HIPAA Security Risk Assessment

HIPAA Risk Assessment – Why Is It Necessary?

Healthcare breaches are very common. We hear about them in the news every other week. That’s why it’s mandatory to do business with an organization that is HIPPA compliant. 

HIPAA security rule defines risk assessment as a thorough and accurate assessment of risks and vulnerabilities to confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the electronically protected health information. The HIPPA Act sets several guidelines to adopt accountability rules regarding patient information. As per the guidelines, hospitals and medical services must protect the PI of patients. Failure to comply with HIPPA can lead to hefty fines. In extreme cases, a business may end up losing its medical license as well. 

Who Needs HIPPA?

  • Covered Entities 

These are the organizations that fall into one of the following buckets – health plans, health care providers, and healthcare clearinghouses that transmit health information electronically. 

  • Business Associates 

It’s an individual or organization that receives, creates, maintains or transmits health information.

What HIPPA risk assessment Entails?

The organizations that handle Personal Health Information (PHI) must conduct a risk analysis to comply with the security rules of HIPPA and receive their HIPPA compliance. The business entities must include the following components on their risk assessment report: 

  • Scope of the analysis 

This refers to defining any hazard or risk that might fall upon Personal Health Information. It could be related to the security, availability, and integrity of the information.

  • Data collection 

It’s about gathering information related to PHI, storing, maintaining and its receipt and transmission. If an external provider is being used to host data, then the provider must facilitate a document containing a detailed description of how and where the data is being stored. 

  • Potential threats & vulnerabilities 

It’s among the hardest step in the process because it’s similar to searching for a needle in a haystack. Despite that, it’s critical to identify potential sources of trouble related to PHI. 

  • Access the current security measures 

You must list down the security measures that are already in place such as 2-factor authentication and other types of encryption. 

  • Likelihood of Occurrence of threat 

This refers to predicting the chances of threats. 

  • The potential impact of the threats 

You must predict the impact of the occurrence of PHI related incidents.

  • Determining risk

The level of risk can be determined by averaging the level of threats predicted in the above two items.

  • Finalize the document 

You must have the risk assessment report in a documented format.

  • Review and update 

Risk assessment is not a one-time process. HIPPA regulations are updated periodically. Therefore, you will have to review and revise your risk assessment.

Why Is It Necessary?

These days, it’s part of the operations to use the Internet to communicate with the patients. That’s why the number of medical websites and applications has increased. So is the risk of crimes. Vulnerabilities exist regardless of the size of the organization.

Apparently, healthcare organizations are the top targets of cybercriminals. Healthcare providers (this includes pharmacies, doctors, nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals) must access their technical, administrative and physical safeguards. This would reveal where the information within the organization could be at the most risk.

All organizations handling PHI need to conduct a risk analysis as the first line of defense and as the first step to implement the safeguard protocols mentioned in the security rule by HIPPA.

The Benefits HIPAA Risk Assessment 

HIPPA risk assessment shouldn’t just be conducted because it’s mandatory and failure to comply would result in hefty fines. It should be conducted because of the benefits it can bring for your organization.

It lets you identify the weak spots by giving you the opportunity of fixing the problem right away or by closely monitoring it. This will make it easier for you to avoid issues when it’s time for HIPPA Audit. Since risk assessment needs to be performed periodically and whenever your organization goes through infrastructural changes, there is another advantage. The entities get the opportunity to review potential vulnerabilities present in the system before the problem arises. This can save you from paying heavy fines. 

The process of risk assessment is lengthy and expensive because more man-power and hours are required. But, its benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Since breaches will minimize, you will be able to gain the trust of your patients. 

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