Originally focused on healthcare security, HITRUST's reputation for being the most comprehensive security framework has provided cross-industry popularity. This gain in traction is spurring many organization decision-makers to ask the question, “What is HITRUST?" and evaluating if their company should earn HITRUST CSF certification.

This article provides a HITRUST overview and answers your HITRUST security framework questions.

What is HITRUST?

HITRUST originally stood for the Health Information Trust Alliance, but the organization rebranded to simply become HITRUST Alliance. This is a privately held company founded in 2007.

Created in collaboration with healthcare, technology, and information security organizations, the company established a cybersecurity framework to help organizations from all sectors – but especially healthcare – effectively manage data, information risk, and compliance. 

Today, the organization offers an industry-agnostic HITRUST Approach:

"A comprehensive information risk management and compliance program to provide an integrated approach that ensures all programs are aligned, maintained and comprehensive to support an organization’s information risk management and compliance objectives."

What is the HITRUST CSF?

The HITRUST Common Security Framework, or HITRUST CSF, is a set of security controls that incorporates the HITRUST Approach. The HITRUST CSF helps organizations that work with sensitive data to become more secure.

It is designed to provide a flexible and configurable standard that organizations can use to develop cybersecurity strategies compliant with the HIPAA, ISO, NIST, SOC 2, CMMC, PCI-DSS, and many other data protection regulations.

Related Reading: HITRUST CSF Version 9.4 CMMC and NIST Mapping: What's New

Benefits of HITRUST CSF Certification

HITRUST certification demonstrates that an organization complies with the HITRUST CSF. Achieving compliance with HITRUST is not mandatory under any regulation; however, the HITRUST CSF and certification have multiple benefits for an organization:

Actionable HITRUST Certification Guidance

Some privacy and data protection regulations require the data to be protected “appropriately” and according to “best practice” without specifying what this means. This leaves the burden on the organization seeking compliance to determine what controls should be implemented and then to execute them.

Organizations can, therefore, be unintentionally non-compliant due to overlooking controls or incorrectly applying them, or developing or applying controls that are ineffective or hurt the organization’s security posture.

The HITRUST security framework is designed to give organizations concrete guidance on controls to put into practice and how to modify requirements to fit the business's needs based on size, function, and organization layout.

Certifying against a framework helps to ease the burden on organizations and ensures that steps are taken help to meaningfully increase organizational cyber resilience.

Related Reading: Achieve Secure Cloud Adoption Using HITRUST

Multi-Regulation Coverage

Organizations are often liable for compliance with multiple regulations and/or security frameworks. For example, if a healthcare provider accepts credit or debit cards as payment for services, they are required to protect this information under the PCI-DSS.

Related Reading: Do I Have to Be PCI Compliant?

Trying to meet requirements for multiple regulations and standards can cause confusion and the potential for non-compliance if regulatory requirements are implemented, tested, and updated individually rather than as part of a comprehensive program.

Seeking HITRUST security framework certification can help an organization design its security strategy to minimize the probability of oversights or errors and ensure compliance with multiple regulations. The HITRUST CSF is designed to be configurable and allow organizations to demonstrate compliance with HIPAA, ISO, PCI-DSS, NIST and many other states, private sector, and even international standards such as GDPR.

Provable HIPAA Compliance

The HIPAA regulations advise that organizations must do what is “reasonable and appropriate” to protect sensitive healthcare data. This leaves the organization guessing how to implement a “compliant” system with no governing body that certifies compliance. As a result, vendors have developed their own testing methods and certifications that organizations can seek.

Without clearly defined requirements, it is difficult for organizations to prove that they are truly compliant under HIPAA regulations. An advantage of the HITRUST certification is that it provides organizations a way to prove compliance with a reputable certification framework that can cover a variety of regulations and can be tailored to meet the needs of the organization.

Download! The Essential Guide to HIPAA Compliance

Third-Party Verification of Compliance

A large number of data breaches across all industries underscores the importance of properly protecting sensitive data – personal information, business proprietary data, legal and contractual information, payroll, and human resources data all must be protected at the appropriate level. Achieving a third-party certification and attestation of an organization’s cybersecurity can be beneficial both internally and externally.

By achieving a third-party attestation of regulatory compliance, an organization can demonstrate appropriate due diligence for a legal investigation caused by a breach or official complaint.

Organizations can also proactively take advantage of HITRUST certification by advertising the fact that they are compliant in order to attract customers who are concerned about the appropriate protection of their sensitive data.

Download! Get the 9 Steps to Manage Third-Party Information Security Risk

How Do I Prepare for HITRUST Certification?

HITRUST certification requires that your organization’s security controls be assessed by a HITRUST CSF assessor firm that provides HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioners (CCSFP). A good HITRUST assessor firm should do the following for you:

  • Simplify the HITRUST experience to minimize the burden on your staff
  • Provide insight into what you can expect throughout the HITRUST validation and certification process
  • Be able to incorporate existing recognized security and compliance frameworks such as HIPAA, NIST, ISO, SOC 2, and PCI DSS
  • Assess how your controls program is or is not meeting requirements
  • Work with you to provide a clear and actionable plan to fulfill them

Are you interested in pursuing HITRUST certification? Reach out to start the conversation.