Security Risk Assessment: Are You Current?

Jay Simmons, EHR Consultant Practice Services

A security risk assessment (SRA) isn’t something that healthcare organizations can or should put off. It is a requirement for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). A risk assessment also helps to identify any vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit to access protected health information (PHI).

When businesses that handle PHI conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment they are looking at their physical, technical, and administrative safeguards to ensure that all compliance standards are being met. However, how does a business know if it is current with industry compliance requirements?

What is a Security Risk Assessment?

It’s impossible for a business to know if it’s current with compliance standards if it doesn’t understand what a security risk assessment is. SRA is a tool that is downloadable and was developed jointly by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (ORC).

This tool has one purpose: To guide companies through the risk assessment process. It is important to note that passing the SRA does not indicate immediate compliance. It only shows a business the areas (if any) that need improvement.

Once the SRA tool is downloaded, businesses will enter the required information into the appropriate fields. This information won’t be shared with Health and Human Services (HHS); instead, it is stored on the device it was entered in. The information is then put into a report that highlights any risks in the company’s cybersecurity policies, methods, processes, and systems.

One downside to the SRA tool is that it was designed for medium and small businesses. It might not be compatible with larger ones.

How to Know if Your Cybersecurity is Current

When a business is performing a security risk assessment, there are a few things that will indicate if the company is current with compliance standards:

  • Information assets are identified. This will include everything from electronic files, databases, and applications to infrastructure and employees.
  • Responsibility is assigned. Once the asset is identified, responsibility for security will be assigned to an authorized employee or department.
  • Identify risks to confidentiality, integrity, and asset availability. Risks to any of these signify a weakness that could be used by hackers to access PHI. These identified risks can also be a non-compliance issue.
  • Analyze the impact the risks will have if realized, along with the likelihood of it happening. The SRA will determine the chances an identified risk will become a verified threat, along with the impact it will have on business operations.
  • Risk levels will be determined. Knowing which risks are more potentially harmful to the organization gives it a chance to be proactive in its cybersecurity protocols.
  • Analyzed risks are prioritized for treatment. After risk levels are assigned, companies can prioritize them in the order they need to be treated. This way a lower level risk won’t take precedence over one that could result in a data breach.

Once the SRA tool is finished and the subsequent report has been reviewed, companies will know exactly where they stand regarding their cybersecurity practices and protocols.

Summary

A security risk assessment is a tool that will help businesses know if they’re current with HIPAA and other industry compliance regulations. Larger companies might find that the downloadable tool isn’t compliant with their needs but mid and smaller size businesses will find it useful when identifying potential cybersecurity risks. Frequently, we at Medical Advantage Group are called in to assist with the security risk assessment and can save time by not only running the tool, but also auditing other security concerns for medical practices. We assist with remediation and compliance, giving you an expert partner to help alleviate any worries about your cybersecurity. Reach out if you’d like to learn more about how Medical Advantage Group can assist you with a security risk assessment or other security or compliance issues.