Verizon Enhances Security Programs For Healthcare Organizations

The Verizon Security Management Program-Healthcare online dashboard gets a new module based on the Health Information Trust Alliance Common Security Framework.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

June 2, 2011

4 Min Read

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Verizon has added new capabilities to two of its security programs, capabilities that should help health delivery organization strengthen security across their health systems and assess the security practices of partners they do business with.

Announced Thursday, the company said its Verizon Security Management Program-Healthcare (SMP-H), an online dashboard that helps organizations assess and strengthen their security, will now include a new module based on the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) Common Security Framework (CSF), a widely adopted set of healthcare industry data protection guidelines.

"SMP-H, think of it as a subscription service where we are helping the healthcare organization through the course of the year to consistently look at key control metrics in the security arena," said Thomas Raschke, Verizon's senior manager, security product marketing.

With the inclusion of the HITRUST CSF module, SMP-H enables Verizon's healthcare customers to assess their security measures and practices against 180 new additional controls, with a particular emphasis on process and procedure validation, and policy review.

The company has also enhanced the Verizon Partner Security Program (PSP). Now, by fielding a questionnaire to business partners, healthcare organizations can assess the security compliance of these partners and their internal business units against Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) interim rules that extend data security and privacy requirements to the business associates of healthcare organizations.

PSP is a platform that allows healthcare delivery organizations to conduct risk and compliance assessments and reporting tasks as well as manage their compliance and security across thousands of partners and multiple regulations.

"Customers can distribute questionnaires to their partners and get attestations back, and we've added some healthcare specific content to the PSP program," said Cindy Bellefeuille, Verizon's director of security product marketing.

Bellefeuille said the questions require responses from business partners regarding their security controls, such as whether they're in compliance with HIPPA regulations, what their password policies are, and how they store data.

"The Partner Security Program empowers the healthcare stakeholder to query the other members of their healthcare provider ecosystem," Bellefeuille said.

Based on the answers to these health-related security questions, hospitals, physician offices, and other healthcare delivery organizations "can enhance their visibility into the controls in place within that ecosystem and make good decisions about who to connect with," Bellefeuille added.

PSP now addresses requirements of HIPAA and its interim rules covering healthcare business associates. These rules require that key health care business partners, such as accountants, billing agencies, and law firms, properly protect patient health information and create compliance uniformity across the entire healthcare ecosystem, the company said.

The challenges that hospitals face in adhering to HIPAA regulations were laid bare in two recent audits conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG).

In one instance, OIG investigated seven hospitals and found 151 vulnerabilities in the systems and controls intended to protect electronic protected health information (ePHI). Of these vulnerabilities, 124 were categorized as high impact. Among the vulnerabilities were inadequate password settings, computers that did not log users off after periods of inactivity, unencrypted laptops containing ePHI, and excessive access to root folders.

To improve HIPPA's security rules, HHS announced this week proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule that would give people the right to get a report on who has electronically accessed their protected health information.

Giving his own assessment of the security considerations brought on by the adoption of health information technology, Peter Tippett, Verizon's vice president of security and industry solutions, said that establishing and maintaining standards for the security and privacy of health data is a key foundational element critical to the transformation of the U.S. healthcare system.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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