The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule requires that covered entities conduct a risk assessment of their healthcare organization. A risk assessment helps healthcare organizations ensure they are compliant with HIPAA’s administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. A risk assessment also helps reveal areas where protected health information (PHI) could be at risk.
Although annual Security Risk Assessments (SRA) are required and can result in a fine, many healthcare organizations choose to take a risk and fail to complete an SRA or choose to not do them annually. While pressure to keep costs low can be a business driver, it is important to complete an SRA and protect patient data for the following 7 reasons:
1. Security Risk Assessments Are Required
All providers who are “covered entities” under HIPAA are required to perform a risk analysis. Furthermore, to comply with HIPAA, you must continue to review, correct or modify, and update security protections.
2. Security Risk Assessments Can Reduce Long-Term Costs
SRAs help to identify potential security flaws in a system. By identifying and addressing those weaknesses early on, you are able to save yourself from future costs associated with failed technology or systems, bad actors, and government fines.
3. Security Risk Assessments Completed by Experts Can Improve Future Assessments
SRAs completed by HIPAA and IT experts take the steps necessary to formalize a review, create a review structure, collect security knowledge, and implement self-analysis features. In taking all these steps a risk assessment has the potential to boost productivity and lessen the work necessary to complete the next annual SRA.
4. Security Risk Assessments Break Down Barriers
To be most effective, security must be addressed by all levels of a healthcare organization, from management to providers to IT staff. Management is responsible for making business decisions that relate to the appropriate level of security for the organization. The IT staff is ultimately responsible for making decisions that relate to the implementation of specific security requirements for systems, applications, data and controls. Providers are working within the business and IT systems and imputing ePHI. SRAs must bring these parties together to analyze and address security issues.
5. Security Risk Assessments Provide Important Self Analysis
The output of an SRA must be simple enough to use and understand, such that management is able to take ultimate ownership for the security of the organization. In doing so, the security becomes a more significant part of the healthcare organization’s culture and allows team members to analyze themselves and their contribution to risks and security.
6. Security Risk Assessments Facilitate Communication
By acquiring information from various parts of the organization, an SRA boosts communication and expedites decision making.
7. Security Risk Assessments Help You Avoid Breaches
The very purpose of an SRA is not to simply meet a government requirement, but rather, to identify security weaknesses within the healthcare organization. In doing so, action can be taken to strengthen security and ultimately avoid potential breaches saving the healthcare organization from potentially disastrous financial, PR and regulatory issues.