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Government Releases Security Risk Assessment Tool to Help Providers with HIPAA Compliance

Posted on March 28, 2014

A new security risk assessment (SRA) tool to help guide health care providers in small to medium sized offices conduct risk assessments of their organizations is now available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The SRA tool is the result of a collaborative effort by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The tool is designed to help practices conduct and document a risk assessment in a thorough, organized fashion at their own pace by allowing them to assess the information security risks in their organizations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule. The application, available for downloading at www.HealthIT.gov/security-risk-assessment, also produces a report that can be provided to auditors.

HIPAA requires organizations that handle protected health information to regularly review the administrative, physical and technical safeguards they have in place to protect the security of the information. By conducting these risk assessments, health care providers can uncover potential weaknesses in their security policies, processes and systems. Risk assessments also help providers address vulnerabilities, potentially preventing health data breaches or other adverse security events. A vigorous risk assessment process supports improved security of patient health data.

Conducting a security risk assessment is a key requirement of the HIPAA Security Rule and a core requirement for providers seeking payment through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, commonly known as the Meaningful Use Program.

“Protecting patients’ protected health information is important to all health care providers and the new tool we are releasing today will help them assess the security of their organizations,” said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology. “The SRA tool and its additional resources have been designed to help health care providers conduct a risk assessment to support better security for patient health data.”

“We are pleased to have collaborated with the ONC on this project,” said Susan McAndrew, deputy director of OCR’s Division of Health Information Privacy. “We believe this tool will greatly assist providers in performing a risk assessment to meet their obligations under the HIPAA Security Rule.”

The SRA tool’s website contains a User Guide and Tutorial video to help providers begin using the tool. Videos on risk analysis and contingency planning are available at the website to provide further context.

The tool is available for both Windows operating systems and iOS iPads. Download the Windows version at http://www.HealthIT.gov/security-risk-assessment. The iOS iPad version is available from the Apple App Store (search under “HHS SRA tool”).

The ONC is committed to improving the SRA tool in future update cycles, and is requesting that users provide feedback. Public comments on the SRA tool will be accepted at http://www.HealthIT.gov/security-risk-assessment until June 2, 2014.