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Information security is a crucial aspect in most organizations. The loss of sensitive information poses considerable threats to the concerned parties. In this regard, various organizations in conjunction with the government have established information security standards that promote the safeguarding of electronic health information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and HITRUST CSF constitute some of the most widely used information security standards in the health care sector.

HIPAA standards define information security guidelines that focus on protecting certain aspects of information in the health care industry. These standards establish rules that ensure an individual’s health information remains confidential, retains its integrity, and is secure. HIPAA standards encompass the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule. The Security Rule stipulates guidelines that ensure the protection of electronic health information for individuals. The scope in this regard entails information that a particular entity creates, receives, uses or maintain. The Security Rule promotes the appropriate administration, and physical and technical safeguarding of particular information (Colling & York, 2010). The Privacy Rule promotes the protection of sensitive health information that is identifiable with certain individuals. The Security Rule entails a narrower scope of protecting confident information identified by the Privacy Rule.

The interplay between the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule ensures the protection of particular health records and other personal aspects of health information. In this regard, HIPAA standards require the concerned entities to safeguard individuals’ health information through the identification of various threats and adopting necessary measures. In addition, HIPAA defines guidelines that require the setting of limits concerning the use and disclosure of health information without the consent of the patient (Scholl, 2008). It gives patients control over their health records so that they can examine them and request any necessary changes. The flexibility associated with the Security Rule facilitates the safeguarding of information while allowing particular entities to enhance various aspects of patient care through the adoption of new technologies.

HITRUST Common Security Framework (CSF)

This security framework defines standards that apply to organizations that create, use, store, and transact personal health and financial information. The framework provides guidelines concerning the adoption of various medical technologies and electronic transactions. The adoption of the CSF framework promotes the safeguarding of electronic information and the creation of an efficient healthcare system. The CSF framework cross-references various existing standards such as HIPAA and ISO (Wilson & McEvoy, 2012). In this regard, the implementation of the framework adopts an approach that has minimal cases of redundancy and ambiguity. The framework defines guidelines that eliminate various challenges relating to information security in the health care sector.

HITRUST CSF comprises of an Information Security Implementation Manual, and Standards and Regulations Mapping. These components facilitate the realization of a comprehensive tool that regulates the management of health and other crucial information. The Security Implementation Manual provides flexibility concerning various aspects of an organization such as the type and complexity of the organization’s environment. The manual entails recommendations for practices relating to security governance and security control. The CSF framework supports alternative controls that cater for various information systems due to the consideration that some organizations may face challenges concerning the implementation of the standard CSF requirements (Wilson & McEvoy, 2012). CSF’s alternative control provides guidelines that facilitate easier management when a system control fails. The alternative control adheres to the objectives of the traditional CSF framework so that an organization’s information security system does not become vulnerable.

Standards and Regulations Mapping ensure that the CSF framework adhere to acceptable regulations in the healthcare industry. In this regard, healthcare organizations can relate various CSF specifications with other standards such as HIPAA. This is a crucial provision concerning compliance where multiple standards apply to an organization. CSF’s Standard and Regulations Mapping covers standards such as COBIT 4.1, NIST SP 800-53/800-66 and 16 CFR Part 681. This comprehensive coverage provides a tool that is applicable in almost all aspects of information security.

Comparison

While the HITRUST CSF framework adopts a comprehensive coverage of various federal and states regulations, HIPAA employs a narrow scope concerning the implementation of health information security. In this regard, HITRUST CSF allows diverse entities in the healthcare industry to adopt a framework that enhances various control requirements concerning the protection of health information. An organization employing the CSF approach does not have to worry about the requirements of other standards as CSF guidelines incorporate other standards as well. In comparison, HIPAA does not incorporate other standards such as COBIT in the stipulation of its various information security standards.

Another variation between the two standards of information security is the aspect concerning the provision of an alternative control based on the consideration that the traditional approach does not favor all organizations. The CSF framework promotes significant levels of flexibility concerning an organization’s type, size and complexity of the environment. In this regard, the framework provides an information management and control approach that is easy to adopt in various organizations. Thus, although the implementation of the framework may vary, health organizations can adopt a similar process concerning the preparation and establishment of an effective and secure information system. On the other hand, HIPAA’s approach is more restrictive and does not provide for an alternative approach in case the traditional approach proves ineffective.

Summary

The integration of information technology in almost all aspects of our lives has necessitated the establishment and adoption of various information security standards. While some of these standards, such as HIPAA standards, address the safeguarding of information in certain sectors, other standards, such as the HITRUST CSF framework, define a wider scope of implementation of information security measures. Considering the level of sensitivity of the information handled in the health care sector, the adoption of a particular information security standard is vital. 

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