At its most basic definition, a risk assessment is simply a standardized way to evaluate the potential risks of an activity or process. In the hosting industry, though, the need for a risk assessment usually comes up during the need to comply with security rules enacted by the health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA). Any business dealing with sensitive data and health care details has a legal responsibility to protect that data. Once safeguards are in place, organizations must complete a risk assessment to ensure full HIPAA, or other security measures such as payment card industry (PCI), compliance. But what is included in the risk assessment, and what makes it so important?
Data breaches and other malicious attacks on personally identifiable information (PII) have reached an all-time high, making it more critical than ever for organizations that store, transmit, or handle data to block as many threats as possible. In this article, we’ll be focusing specifically on health care data.
The purpose of a risk assessment as part of the HIPAA security rule is to provide a full, 360-degree view of the environment used to store or transmit sensitive patient data. This assessment provides the opportunity for covered entities to identify any risks or vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals to breach the network and snoop or steal valuable health care information. Once these risks have been identified, the organization can take the correct steps to mitigate these issues and prevent attacks.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Conducting a risk analysis is the first step in identifying and implementing safeguards that comply with and carry out the standards and implementation specifications in the security rule. Therefore, a risk analysis is foundational, and must be understood in detail before [the Office for Civil Rights] can issue meaningful guidance that specifically addresses safeguards and technologies that will best protect electronic health information.”
A risk assessment pinpoints any threats that could impact sensitive health care data.
The risk analysis process follows several important steps to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks when it comes to security procedures. The protection of patient data is taken very seriously within the health care industry and beyond, and it’s important that covered entities treat the assessment process very carefully.
According to HHS, a risk analysis approach covers:
The risk assessment process should also include identification of the organization responsible for each risk. For instance, certain risks may be transferred to a solution provider, depending upon the technological systems in place and the types of data house or transmitted by these platforms.
“If an organization deals with patient data, a risk assessment is required.”
Hostway, a best-in-class hosting provider, ensures that all potential risks associated with HIPAA compliance and health care data overall are identified and addressed. Our organization takes part in an annual risk assessment audit so that every potential threat is identified, correctly categorized and mitigated.
Whether an organization operates within the health care sector, or simply deals with patient data, a risk assessment is required. When it comes time to complete this process, there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
To find out more about the importance of a risk assessment and its role in HIPAA compliance, contact the experts at Hostway today.