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HITRUST and HIPAA: Supporting Data Security and Privacy in the 21st Century

Data security in healthcare is critical to keep organizations compliant and maintain the trust of patients and their families. Breaches can bring costs that include literal dollars (ransomware, fines, legal fees, etc.) and less tangible but still important expenses (reputation, trust, etc.). The healthcare industry is, by now, quite familiar with the concept of HIPAA and the requirements it has for patient privacy. Axxess experts recently compared and contrasted HIPAA with HITRUST, the leading healthcare security certification, to illustrate how they work to protect patient data and keep organizations compliant.


HIPAA is short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which is a U.S. law that set standards for how to securely handle protected health information. HITRUST is a global data security framework that was created specifically for healthcare organizations. Arlene Maxim, RN, HCS-C, Senior Vice President of Clinical Services at Axxess, pointed out that HIPAA and HITRUST are connected but not the same.

“[HIPAA] creates standards for protecting the health information of our patients,” said Maxim. “HITRUST is a global security risk-management framework…it explains how to comply with HIPPA and then it leads to a security framework in demonstrating our compliance with HIPPA.”

Maxim also noted that HIPPA doesn’t have a certification process, whereas HITRUST has a rigorous process that can take a year or longer. Axxess recently completed this process and earned the HITRUST i1 certification for its suite of solutions.

Securing Healthcare Data

Cybersecurity is extremely important as more health data moves from paper to computer systems. “With cybersecurity being on the top of everybody’s mind, I think if one thing that keeps people in healthcare up at night could be the cybersecurity,” said Maxim. She noted that there’s been a precipitous increase in the number of data breaches over the last five years. In fact, according to an analysis of data compiled by Reuters, there were more than 600 organizations affected by a breach in 2022.

“HITRUST coordinates all the compliance standards into one framework,” said Maxim. “[HITRUST] is not HIPPA alone, but it is an elevated source for you to make sure that you have the security in your data being submitted.”

Completing HITRUST certification, or partnering with an organization that has, can also offer organizations a competitive advantage when marketing to referral sources, according to Maxim.

Training Staff for Compliance

Maxim stressed the need for healthcare organizations to ensure their staff understand HIPPA and are in compliance. Establishing a comprehensive compliance program is key, she said.

“HIPPA requires organizations to conduct annual self-audits and ensure compliance,” said Maxim. Axxess creates resources and provides continuing education to explain how to protect data and avoid HIPAA-related violations. Maxim recommends organizations establish a compliance program and appoint a compliance officer in their organization to streamline operations. This can provide an additional layer of assurance that the organization is doing everything possible to maintain compliance and protect patient data.

Anyone can create an Axxess Training and Certification Program account, giving them access to all certifications, continuing education and training courses across service lines.


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