HIPAA risk analysis vs. risk assessment

Key Takeaway:

HIPAA risk analysis vs risk assessment is an interesting point, because it can be a little confusing. Healthcare professionals, however, grasp the subtleties between the two and help healthcare organizations clear confusions about the two of them.

HIPAA risk analysis and risk assessment are terms that closely resemble each other, because of which they tend to be used as being synonymous and analogous with each other. However, for professionals, HIPAA risk analysis vs risk assessment is a major phrase, because there are significant differences between HIPAA risk analysis and HIPAA risk assessment.

The difference lies in the application of the concepts

The central point that relates to HIPAA risk analysis vs risk assessment is in where the two are used. HIPAA requires both risk analysis and risk assessment under its Security Rule. Risk analysis is central to securing ePHI, and HIPAA has made this amply clear in 164.308(a) (1) (ii) (A), according to which a Covered Entity (CE) or Business Associate (BA) must "conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI)" they hold.

So, risk analysis is a requirement for entities that need to be in compliance with HIPAA. The main intention behind requiring organizations to comply with risk analysis is that it helps them locate the various loopholes and flaws in their ePHI. Risk analysis is at the root of HIPAA Security Rule and is thus a requisite element of HIPAA compliance.

It has the following elements:

What about risk assessment?

Now, let us understand risk assessment. Risk assessment appears in the HIPAA regulations under the definition of "breach" in the Breach Notification Rule. It is what a healthcare organization has to first carry out in order to evaluate if there is a low probability of compromise of ePHI, which in turn helps it decide whether the breach notification requirements need to be applied.

The Breach Notification Rule ascribes at least four important criteria for requiring risk assessment:

  • The type and reach of ePHI
  • The identity of the person who accessed the ePHI in an unauthorized manner
  • Whether ePHI was actually removed from its place physically and/or viewed, and
  • The level of mitigation of the risk to the ePHI

Summing up...

The best way understand the concept of HIPAA risk analysis vs risk assessment is that both are required as part of HIPAA, but vary in their usage. While a risk analysis is an absolutely, mandatorily required first step towards a healthcare organization's security policies vis-a-vis ePHI; a risk assessment concerns itself primarily with breach of protected information. It is used to help organizations decide if this breach is subject to reporting requirements or not. A reading of the above makes it easier to evaluate HIPAA risk analysis vs risk assessment. The requirements and the context in which the two are required vary.

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