The Health Information Trust Alliance Common Security Framework (HITRUST CSF) is a cybersecurity framework designed to help organizations meet regulatory compliance and risk management needs when dealing with sensitive and regulated data.

The HITRUST CSF features a risk-based and compliance approach that integrates various regulations and standards. It also includes certification for compliance validation, providing an additional layer of trust for HITRUST-certified organizations.

Learn about this valuable framework and how it protects organizations that handle sensitive data from cyberattacks.

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What is the HITRUST CSF Framework?

The Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) was founded in 2017 and specializes in programs safeguarding sensitive data and managing information risk for organizations across all industries. HITRUST works with leaders in privacy, information security, and risk management to develop and maintain widely-used risk and compliance management frameworks. These frameworks include assessments and assurance methodologies, like HITRUST Certification.

The foundation of all HITRUST programs is the HITRUST CSF, a certifiable framework that helps global organizations comply with regulations and manage risks effectively. The comprehensive and benchmark framework includes scalable security standards and privacy controls that adhere to federal and state laws—helping organizations stay compliant in their privacy and security efforts.

Integration with Existing Regulations

A key highlight of the HITRUST CSF is its integration with existing security and privacy-related regulations, standards, and frameworks. The HITRUST CSF is a convenient solution for organizations seeking to fulfill various compliance and regulatory requirements. Its versatility enables organizations to customize their security and privacy controls to meet multiple regulations and standards concurrently.

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is one of the most significant federal laws in the US regulating patient data in healthcare. These security rules set the standard for protecting and confidentially handling individuals’ health information. All healthcare organizations that adhere to HIPAA requirements are considered HIPAA compliant. These requirements are conveniently integrated into the HITRUST CSF.

Other regulations and standards include:

Control Categories

The HITRUST CSF includes a set of control categories that act as guidelines companies can use to build a resilient cybersecurity posture. These 14 control categories are organized into various domains that cover different pieces of information security and risk management, including:

In total, the control categories include 49 control objectives and 156 control specifications and security measures. Even though there are many different categories, each is considered equally important for organizations when developing their security program. Each control category includes the following:

  • Control Objective, Reference, and Specification
  • Risk Factor Type (Organizational, Regulatory, System)
  • Topics and Keywords
  • Implementation Requirements: (General Requirement Levels and Segment-Specific Security Requirement Levels)
  • Control Standard Mapping by Level

HITRUST Assessment & Certification

The HITRUST Alliance provides an assessment and certification process along with the CSF. Achieving HITRUST CSF Certification involves a thorough and meticulous validated assessment that includes internal and external evaluations, including an on-site verification by a HITRUST assessor.

The HITRUST Certification Process is intentionally rigorous to guarantee that organizations comply with the comprehensive security and compliance standards established by the HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF). The three HITRUST CSF Assessment levels are:

  • HITRUST Essentials Assessment, Foundational Cybersecurity: Provides entry-level assurance focused on the most basic cybersecurity controls and showcases that essential cybersecurity hygiene is in place.
  • HITRUST Implemented Assessment, Leading Practices: Provides a moderate level of assurance addressing cybersecurity best practices and a broader range of common cyber threats than the foundational assessment.
  • HITRUST Risk-based Assessment, Expanded Practices: A high level of assurance focusing on a comprehensive risk-based assessment of controls with a larger approach to risk management and compliance evaluation.

Who Should Comply with the HITRUST CSF Framework?

The HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF) is designed to be a baseline framework applicable to various industries, especially those handling sensitive and critical information. Since the HITRUST CSF is a framework, there are no specific compliance requirements with the framework itself, but many of the integrated regulations do require mandated compliance.

Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations are one of the most significant industries that should comply with the HITRUST framework due to managing large volumes of personal and medical data. Protected health information (PHI) is regulated under various laws in the U.S. and beyond. Pharmaceutical companies also handle sensitive research data and patient information, making them a crucial sector for HITRUST compliance. Additionally, healthcare service providers and IT companies are covered entities that should adopt the framework to provide essential solutions to the healthcare industry.

It is essential to prioritize compliance, especially for third-party billing services that handle patient and healthcare providers’ financial and medical data. HITRUST standards should also be followed by cloud providers who store medical data to ensure the security of this sensitive information.

It is not limited to healthcare-specific organizations, as service providers in the healthcare sector should also consider adopting the framework. For instance, Health IT companies that offer essential IT solutions like electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Other Organizations

Complying with HITRUST CSF is a strong indicator of robust information security. It may be required or strongly recommended for business associates in regulated industries. Beyond healthcare, various sectors can benefit from HITRUST CSF compliance, especially those that handle sensitive information in any form. These industries can include:

  • Financial Services
  • Technology Companies
  • Retailers
  • Public Sector
  • Legal and Consulting Firms
  • Educational Institutions
  • Supply Chain Partners

Benefits of HITRUST CSF

The HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF) offers a range of benefits for organizations, and these advantages are particularly pronounced for healthcare entities dealing with sensitive patient data.

General Benefits

Healthcare organizations can demonstrate compliance with multiple regulatory standards and safeguard sensitive information by adhering to the HIBRUST CSF. Some benefits include

  • Standardization: Provides a unified set of requirements that integrate various regulations and standards, reducing the complexity of managing multiple compliance needs.
  • Scalability: Designed to be adaptable for organizations of all sizes and types, allowing for tailored security controls based on unique risk profiles.
  • Compliance: Helps organizations to achieve compliance with various regulations (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR) and standards (e.g., NIST, ISO), saving time and effort in audit preparation and execution.
  • Trust: HITRUST Certification is a recognized and respected indicator of robust data protection, which can help build trust among clients, partners, and regulators.

Benefits Specific to Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations face unique challenges that make adopting frameworks like HITRUST CSF beneficial and often essential. Some advantages specific to the healthcare industry include:

  • Regulatory Alignment: The HITRUST CSF was developed with healthcare requirements in mind, making it an effective tool for HIPAA compliance.
  • Patient Data Protection: By providing a robust framework for securing sensitive healthcare data, HITRUST helps organizations protect against data breaches that could compromise patient privacy.
  • Industry Acceptance: HITRUST is widely recognized and accepted within the healthcare sector, often becoming a prerequisite for business partnerships and vendor agreements.
  • Reduces Financial Risks: Implementing HITRUST CSF can help healthcare organizations avoid fines and legal repercussions from data breaches or non-compliance.
  • Competitive Advantage: Being HITRUST CSF certified can serve as a differentiator in the competitive healthcare market, assuring potential clients and partners of an organization's commitment to data security.
  • Continuous Improvement: The framework encourages ongoing assessment and updates, helping healthcare organizations stay ahead of emerging threats and regulatory changes.

How UpGuard Can Help Your Healthcare Organization

If your healthcare organization wants to upgrade its cybersecurity posture, consider UpGuard’s all-in-one platforms that help mitigate third-party risk and manage your external attack surface.

We’re experts in our field, so you can rest assured you’re working with security expertise you can rely on. UpGuard’s security research has also been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg, Gizmodo, Engadget, Forbes, ZDNet, and The Guardian. We’ve helped hundreds of global healthcare companies protect their customers using UpGuard’s suite of products, including Chapters Health System, Westfund, dorsaVi, and more.

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