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Why HIPAA Risk Assessments Are
Important for Organizations

Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) has frequently been the subject of data breaches. In fact, these attacks are at an all-time high since more healthcare companies increasingly store patient medical records online. Healthcare organizations must regularly carry out a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) risk assessment to find any threats or weaknesses that could jeopardize ePHI. In addition to being helpful in identifying data threats, a risk assessment, also known as a risk analysis, is mandated by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). "Conduct an accurate and thorough evaluation of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI maintained by the organization," is what the HIPAA Security Rule demands of Covered Entities (CEs) and their Business Associates (BAs). The risk assessment procedure maintains your company in compliance with the CFR and your patients' records are safe.

Does a HIPAA Risk Assessment Need to Be Completed by Small Practices?

Hackers can target smaller businesses and practices as well as larger ones, so data breaches don't just happen in larger enterprises. No of the size of the organization, a HIPAA Risk Assessment must be carried out, and any gaps and vulnerabilities found by the assessment must be properly documented. It is necessary and imperative.

In order to assist small and medium-sized healthcare organizations and BAs in complying with the HIPAA Security Rule, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), in collaboration with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), saw the need to introduce a Security Risk Assessment (SRA) Tool. The program is designed to assist these organizations in identifying security risks in their systems, procedures, and policies. It will also provide results so they can utilize them to address any vulnerabilities that are found. The original tool has undergone improvements since it was introduced roughly ten years ago, and it now resembles a decision tree process more.

It's crucial to remember that the CFRs do not mandate that Covered Entities and Business Associates utilize the SRA tool or provide detailed instructions on how risk assessment should be conducted. The HHS is aware that different business sizes have various demands, vulnerabilities, and levels of resource availability. The tool's drawbacks include the potential for growing in complexity as it is used, the resulting increase in compliance-related queries, and the inability to view all the queries before moving through the process. All CEs and BAs must have written documentation proving they have carried out an accurate and comprehensive HIPAA security risk assessment, regardless of whether they used the tool or outsourced the assessment to a consultant or vendor.

Serious Penalties May Apply if a HIPAA Risk Assessment Is Not Conducted

If the HIPAA obligation to do a risk analysis isn't enough to motivate you to begin the process, you should keep in mind that the penalties for non-compliance can stack up to large sums. Some businesses, like Excellus Health Plan, Inc., have been required to reimburse OCR up to $5.1 million for ePHI breaches. The organization's "failure to undertake an enterprise-wide risk analysis, and failings to implement risk management, information system activity review, and access restrictions," which jeopardized the privacy of millions of its patients, were cited as the reason for the fine in this press release. Therefore, conducting a risk assessment enables you to not only identify potential flaws in organizational information systems that contain ePHI but also to take the necessary precautions as soon as possible to safeguard your ePHI data, which can shield your company from federal fines and the requirement to enter into a resolution agreement with OCR.

Assisting businesses in achieving HIPAA compliance

HIPAA Ready wants to keep your business one step ahead by ensuring that anybody in charge of developing or maintaining a HIPAA compliance program is aware of the rules, particularly when it comes to performing HIPAA Risk Assessments.

Do you need to do an assessment for your company? Try our free demo and find out how we can help.

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