What are HIPAA Risk Assessments and Why Are They Important?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was established in 1996 to protect the privacy of patient health information. In order to properly safeguard electronic protected health information (ePHI), covered entities (CEs) must perform risk assessments on a routine basis. Let’s review HIPAA risk assessments and why they’re so important.
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What Are HIPAA Risk Assessments?
A HIPAA risk assessment is an evaluation of an organization's security posture. Organizations conduct them to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities that could lead to a data breach. The purpose of a risk assessment is twofold: first, to identify potential threats to ePHI, and second, to determine whether existing security controls are adequate to mitigate those threats. If any weaknesses are found, then the organization will need to take steps to remediate them.
Components of a HIPAA Risk Assessment
A risk assessment is an essential component of any effective cybersecurity program, and it helps CEs find and fix potential security vulnerabilities. Additionally, annual risk assessments are required under federal law by the HIPAA Security Rule. These are the four main components of our HIPAA risk assessments.
1. Information Gathering
CEs must first gather data about their organization, including its structure, business processes, IT systems, and physical environment. They may gather this data via interviews with staff, direct observations, document reviews, and other methods.
2. Risk Identification
Once data has been collected, it must be analyzed to identify potential risks to ePHI. These risks can come from internal or external sources, and they can be technical, physical, or administrative in nature.
3. Risk Analysis
Once identifying key risks, CEs must then evaluate and determine their potential for negative impact. This allows them to prioritize which risks pose the greatest threat to their organization.
4. Risk Mitigation
Finally, CEs must develop and implement plans to address any identified risks. These plans may include changes to policies and procedures, implementation of new technology or security measures, and comprehensive employee security training.
Why Risk Assessments Matter
In addition to satisfying your compliance obligations, a risk assessment can help you proactively protect your patient data from loss or theft. By identifying potential security risks and taking steps to remediate them, you can help ensure that your patients’ ePHI remains secure moving forward.
Performing a risk assessment can also help you guard against some of the common mistakes that lead to data breaches. For example, if you find that your employees improperly properly trained on how to handle ePHI, then you can take steps to rectify the situation before a mistake leads to major issue. Similarly, if your organization lacks adequate security controls, then you can implement new ones before data falls into the wrong hands.
Our HIPAA Compliance Service
If your organization handles ePHI, then it’s most likely a covered entity under HIPAA. Along with annual risk assessments, HIPAA also demands the development and maintenance of both a management plan and evidence of compliance. When faced with an audit, organizations must be able to provide documentation of regular risk assessments and timely remediation efforts.
Maintaining HIPAA compliance is no easy task, especially for small or inexperienced teams. It’s a tedious technical process that requires diligence and attention to detail. What’s more, failing an audit can not only damage your organization’s reputation, but also lead to large fines and increased insurance premiums.
Luckily, we specialize in conducting comprehensive, confidential HIPAA risk assessments for our clients. Our team exposes high-priority risks according to our proprietary Risk Score Matrix, so you can resolve them as efficiently as possible. Using a combination of software, collaboration, and on-site analyses, we can easily uncover a wide variety of potential problem areas. Then, we step up to quickly fix your issues via data backups, recovery strategies, and employee training programs. We also provide you with the required HIPAA documentation and ongoing IT expertise needed to stay compliant in the future.
Ask Us about HIPAA Risk Assessments
Organizations that manage health records have an obligation to protect their patients’ information. Failure to do so risks privacy breaches, hefty fines, and a loss of confidence in their professional capabilities. If you have questions or concerns about HIPAA, risk assessments, or organizational security posture, then we welcome you to contact us for solutions today. Our team of IT professionals is eager to address your issues and provide the support you deserve.