It is a constant challenge for the healthcare industry to comply with the Health Insurance Accessibility and Portability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA requires healthcare organizations and their business associates to secure protected health information (PHI) and electronic PHI (ePHI). The protections cover all the mediums and locations where companies create, access, store, or exchange sensitive information.

HIPAA incorporates requirements from several industry standards and federal regulations. These include (but are not limited to) the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Hence many companies struggle to comply with HIPAA, because it really is a collection of security controls from many other frameworks.

Using HITRUST CSF certification allows organizations to meet information protection requirements more efficiently. HITRUST CSF stands for the Health Information Trust Alliance Common Security Framework. The HITRUST requirements cross-reference various regulatory requirements and standards into one integrated framework to simplify your compliance program.

When an organization wants to become HITRUST certified, it starts with a self-assessment, reviewing the PHI and ePHI the business collections and the locations where it stores, accesses, transmits, or creates data. Then, the business undertakes a risk management process that focuses on determining the risk levels and tolerances.

After establishing security controls, the business needs to hire a Common Security Framework (CSF) Assessor to perform a HITRUST audit. If the CSF assessor approves the program, the organization can then be HITRUST-certified.

What Is the Difference Between HIPAA and HITRUST?

HIPAA and HITRUST are acronyms that have a similar sound and are interrelated, but they are not the same. The main difference between HIPAA and HITRUST is that HIPAA is legislation, and HITRUST is an organization.

According to the HIPAA Security Rule, healthcare companies and their business associates must implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to preserve the privacy, availability, and integrity of PHI and ePHI.

The HITRUST Alliance is an independent evidence organization. HITRUST provides what is referred to as the “HITRUST CSF,” a common security framework that offers organizations a flexible and comprehensive approach to HIPAA compliance and risk management.

The HITRUST CSF framework empowers organizations to deal with security risks and regulatory compliance. It also allows security measures to be customized according to each company’s unique factors, such as organization type, size, business systems, and compliance requirements.

More simply: HITRUST CSF is a framework that an organization may use to meet the legal requirements of HIPAA.

What Are the Benefits of HITRUST Certification?

Highest Standard of Healthcare Data Security

Healthcare service payers and an increasing number of health systems and hospitals are demanding that their business associates become HITRUST-certified. In addition, certification proves that the organization is committed to upholding the highest customer healthcare data protection level.

Cost- and Time-Effective

Although HITRUST is stringent, the organization can respond more comprehensively and rapidly after certification, using fewer hours of repeatable resources. This can significantly reduce the workload from a steady stream of lengthy and time-consuming safety questionnaires, a common feature of doing business as a technology or healthcare company.

Customers of healthcare organizations are aware of and concerned about the rising threat to safety and information security. They realize the value of working with organizations that understand these new threats and have taken the measures necessary to assure that sensitive data is protected with adequate security controls and regulatory requirements for the industry.

Commercial Advantage

HITRUST certification shows that an organization is a leading security, compliance, and privacy provider because it has the certification to support it. This healthcare credibility and status distinguishes an organization.

Best Practices for HITRUST Compliance

The use of a system such as HITRUST CSF isn’t sufficient by itself to avoid cyber attacks. An organization that wants to safeguard sensitive data must continuously monitor security risks through the following five steps.


Identifying the threats and weaknesses of a computing network is the first step. A thorough risk assessment can determine:

  • The network assets that must be protected;
  • What data is being gathered;
  • The location where sensitive information is kept and where it moves throughout the network;
  • Those individuals who access the confidential data, including service providers and business associates.


After the company has mapped its assets and their weaknesses, measures need to be implemented to secure the data and network. Logical and hardware security access controls should be employed. These may include annual security awareness training for employees and new employee orientation, as well as administrative and engineering controls, including:

  • Data at rest and in-transit encryption;
  • Data lifecycle monitoring;
  • Data breach protection;
  • Data backup and recovery;
  • Application and network change management controls;
  • Software enhancement life cycle;
  • Event response and management.


An enterprise should deploy detection tools and processes to identify malicious activity. These mechanisms involve:

  • Access checks of users that detect problems with segregation of roles;
  • Anti-malware programs that identify and protect against malware;
  • A vulnerability management system that routinely screens for vulnerabilities and patches systems appropriately;
  • Security reporting and event monitoring systems that can recognize hardware and software-generated warnings.


Organizations must be able to react to an attack or incident. Therefore, it is critical to have an effective incident plan and personnel trained in their duties and responsibilities. This response strategy should be reviewed and refreshed yearly. Perform an analysis to assure appropriate response times and the necessary support for recovery activities.


When cyber attacks do happen, an organization will need to bounce back quickly after the event. The business continuity and recovery plans can support organizations in restoring operations effectively. It’s best to fine-tune and test such strategies annually.

Let ZenGRC Help You Maintain Compliance

ZenGRC is a governance, risk, and compliance solution that can assist you in implementing, managing, and monitoring your risk management framework and remediation processes. In addition, it can help you streamline the administration of the entire lifecycle of all relevant cybersecurity risk management frameworks – HITRUST, and others such as PCI, ISO, and more others.

Security policies, incident response procedures, and internal controls must be documented and updated regularly to assure they meet the evolving cybersecurity environment. With ZenGRC’s document repository, policies and procedures are revision-controlled and easy to find.

Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. The ZenConnect feature enables integration with popular tools such as Jira, ServiceNow, and Slack, assuring seamless adoption within your enterprise.

Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas. By better understanding your risk landscape, you can take action to protect your business from cyberattacks, avoid costly data breaches, and monitor the security posture of your vendors.

Schedule a free demo now to learn more about how ZenGRC can help you enhance your cybersecurity procedures and compliance.