Act Now: The Risks of Postponing Your HIPAA Security Risk Assessment

We’re over halfway through the calendar year– have you started your HIPAA SRA yet?

Between the endless day-to-day needs of an organization and complicated HIPAA requirements, many organizations elect to wait until the end of the year to conduct their HIPAA assessment.

While it may be tempting to push your SRA off until December, it’s far from advisable. Security Risk Assessments are necessary to identify potential breach risks, and when cyberattacks on healthcare have risen 74% year-over-year (and continue to skyrocket into 2023), they are even more critical.

Your organization’s HIPAA SRA is more than just a “checklist item” on your annual compliance task list– it’s a key part of maintaining a solid security risk posture for your practice.

The best time to start your HIPAA SRA is today. Regular risk assessments can not only prevent unnecessary financial penalties and data breaches but also fortify your organization against avoidable security threats. Read on to learn more.

Understanding HIPAA SRA: Why It’s Not Wise to Wait

What is a Security Risk Assessment and Why is it Important?

A HIPAA security risk assessment (SRA) is a mandatory, essential audit that enables you to assess, identify, and take steps toward mitigating risk and filling potential gaps and threats in your security infrastructure.

These risk analyses document potential threats and assess when updates are needed to your security framework.

When is the HIPAA SRA deadline?

To remain HIPAA compliant, organizations must conduct SRAs at least once during each calendar year. Because of this year-end deadline, many small practices find themselves haphazardly completing an SRA every December: rushing to submit the assessment before the 31st.

Rushing through this key piece of compliance can lead to inaccurate assessments and insufficient security protocols from employees prioritizing speed of assessment completion, rather than accuracy.

Covered entities should also conduct a HIPAA SRA whenever a major shift happens within their organization: after a security incident, during a change of ownership, or prior to implementing new technology. Doing so allows covered entities to quickly identify and remediate any threats or vulnerabilities that these organizational changes may have introduced.

What happens if you wait too long to conduct a HIPAA SRA?

Ever-increasing data and technology advancements have made cybersecurity threats much more present and destructive than ever before. Which is failure to properly conduct SRAs can easily lead to a HIPAA violation and/or data breach.

Waiting too long can lead to rushed assessments that may contain errors, fail to thoroughly investigate all aspects of security, or otherwise leave covered entities open to threats.

Consequences for these include:

  • Fines: The OCR may issue penalties of up to $1.9 million annually, per HIPAA violation. These fines vary depending on the violation severity and if remediation has occurred.
  • Lawsuits: In the event of a HIPAA violation, patients may sue for damages based on state law surrounding privacy or medical malpractice.
  • Reputation: HIPAA violations and data breaches can erode public trust, leading to a loss of clients and damage to an entity’s reputation.
  • Additional Financial Impact: The average data breach costs covered entities millions of dollars. Between remediation, operating costs, insurance recovery, impacted care, and other factors, the cost of a HIPAA data breach quickly adds up.

III. Ways to Streamline Your SRA and Protect Your Business

Continuous HIPAA SRA Remediation: Start Now, Not “When We Have Time”

To maintain a solid risk posture, covered entities must remediate the risks found in the previous year’s SRA early and often. Instead of waiting for a certain time of year to remediate, use the results of your SRA to create a HIPAA remediation plan. This will help you proactively address gaps throughout the next twelve months and enable year-round compliance. The SRA is a test that should be completed accurately and on time, but true mastery of streamlined compliance comes with focused remediation based on a concrete, actionable plan.

Regular training initiatives: Keep your team up to date

Over 22% of HIPAA security incidents are caused by insider error, making workforce training critical to maintaining HIPAA compliance. As security requirements, government regulations, and internal policies evolve, your employee training must keep pace.

Modern workplace learning software can offer role-specific training within healthcare organizations, keeping aligned on HIPAA requirements pertaining to their responsibilities.


IV. Navigating the HIPAA SRA: The value of a compliance partner

While continuous HIPAA assessments are essential to maintain compliance, these audits can be intricate and time-consuming for many covered entities. Most smaller organizations aren’t able to employ a HIPAA compliance expert full-time, and the responsibility of the SRA falls to someone balancing many other tasks (who may not have expert-level proficiency with HIPAA procedures).

Working with a trusted HIPAA compliance partner, rather than keeping the process in-house, can simplify this complex process. Certified assessors provide valuable HIPAA-specific expertise and a strategic approach to risk management within your organization. These partners not only provide battle-tested compliance resources, but guide your organization step-by-step throughout the assessment process.

Additionally, HIPAA Compliance Software like HIPAA One can be a valuable tool to align all stakeholders across the assessment process, offering an automated approach that:

  • Guides organizations through every step of the compliance process
  • Tracks remediation procedures
  • Calculates risk assignment and prioritization
  • Generates detailed reports
  • And more…

V. Conclusion

In the face of an ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, putting off your HIPAA SRA is a financial and legal risk too large to take. Compliance isn’t a once-a-year event, but an ongoing process to ensure data privacy and security.

By taking action today and engaging with a trusted HIPAA compliance provider, covered entities can effectively mitigate risk and evade costly consequences.

Make your SRA a priority, not an afterthought. Get in touch with Intraprise Health’s team of HIPAA experts and learn how HIPAA One can ensure compliance in your organization.