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Risk

8/20/2008
11:19 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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The Security And Privacy Of Healthcare Data

Despite the aim of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to bolster the security and privacy of patient information, a majority of health-care providers believe more should -- and can -- be done. And a newly formed consortium of industry leaders plans to do something about it.

Despite the aim of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to bolster the security and privacy of patient information, a majority of health-care providers believe more should -- and can -- be done. And a newly formed consortium of industry leaders plans to do something about it.A group of nine companies in the health care industry have come together to create a set of best security practices to heighten the security and privacy of electronic medical records. Dubbed the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST), it is a private, independent company that was created to establish a common security framework that should allow for more effective and secure access, storage, and exchange of personal health information. After the number of health industry breaches, and recent HIPAA-related fines, one can certainly hope.

Charter members include hospital-provider HCA, and health-insurance providers Humana and Highmark, Cisco, GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Philips Healthcare, and Pitney Bowes.

A couple of weeks ago, Hitrust announced that it was on target to deliver its Common Security Framework (CSF) by this January. The Hitrust CSF will be a set of tools to aid organizations that manage electronic health information in protecting their information assets and managing related risks and complexities. The Hitrust CSF will be comprised of three components: the Information Security Implementation Manual, a Standards and Regulations Cross-Reference Matrix, and a Readiness Assessment Toolkit. The Information Security Implementation Manual is a certifiable, best-practice based specification that scales according to the type, size, and complexity of an organization to provide prescriptive implementation guidance.

The new framework couldn't come too soon. Earlier this year, Hitrust commissioned a survey conducted by KRC Research that showed that 96% of health information technology executives think it is important to have a uniform way for verifying the security of sensitive health care information, and 85% think it is time for the industry to come together and develop a comprehensive framework that can provide that uniformity. The survey also shows that more than half of those surveyed are frustrated that there are no standardized practices for complying with HIPAA.

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