HITRUST Certification: Your Gateway to Robust Security

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Jan 29, 2024

As the healthcare industry actively embraces cloud technology and the electronic transmission of PHI, it has become an increasingly soft target for malicious actors. While HIPAA lays the groundwork for protecting health information, there was a need for a comprehensive framework to address the gaps in the healthcare cybersecurity landscape. That’s when HITRUST came into the picture in 2007.

HITRUST certification combines the best information security and risk management practices from the fragmented regulatory environment. It provides a standardized framework to healthcare organizations that helps uphold a high standard of security and provides mechanisms that address emerging threats. 81% of hospitals and health systems in the U.S. use, recommend or accept the HITRUST CSF certification.

Read on to understand the importance, steps, and benefits of the HITRUST certification process. 

What is HITRUST CSF certification?

HITRUST CSF certification is a formalized process of demonstrating that an organization has implemented the necessary security policies and procedures to meet regulatory requirements and manage risks. It is considered a rigorous certification and is performed by HITRSUT-certified assessors.

HITRUST stands for Health Information Trust Alliance, a non-profit organization that develops and provides access to risk and compliance management frameworks to organizations across the globe. The CSF is a common security framework by HITRUST that provides a comprehensive set of security and privacy controls for data protection, especially in the healthcare sector.

Why do you need to get HITRUST CSF certification?

Organizations, especially in the healthcare industry, must get HITRUST CSF certification because the framework establishes prescriptive controls that can be tailored towards organizational needs to achieve security and compliance. The rigorousness of the assessment enhances resilience and contributes to market credibility.

Here’s why you need to get HITRUST CSF certification:

  • HITRUST is a widely accepted security framework in the U.S., and the HITRUST CSF certification (r2 validated assessment especially) is considered the gold standard for information protection. This is because of the comprehensiveness and depth of review it offers.
  • HITRUST integrates requirements from authoritative sources like NIST, ISO 27001, PCI, and more to incorporate about 2000 controls into one framework. CSF implementation can, therefore, build an effective information protection program.
  • HITRUST keeps updating its policies and programs to stay abreast of emerging threats and evolving regulatory requirements. This ensures that you keep pace with the changes in the digital landscape.
  • The assessment submitted by the external assessor undergoes 150 automated quality checks followed by 5 independent quality reviews. This rigorous assessment process proves that getting certified is no easy feat and builds a solid public perception.

Also check out: HIPAA vs HITRUST: Understanding 6 Main Differences 

Minimize effort, maximize HITRUST success

How to obtain HITRUST certification?

The HITRUST certification process requires you to go through 4 assessment phases: readiness, remediation, validation testing, and quality assurance. These HITRUST certification requirements are divided into control categories, control objectives, implementation levels, and documentation requirements, among others. Here are the 5 steps for the HITRUST certification process:

Define scope and requirements

Start with selecting a HITRUST-approved third-party assessor to help you define the scope. The assessor firm can guide you on the systems, policies, processes, and key stakeholders that must be a part of the assessment. You must also finalize with the assessor the type of assessment to be undertaken: HITRUST essentials, 1-year (e1) assessment, HITRUST implemented 1-year (i1) assessment, HITRUST risk-based, 2-year (r2) validated assessment.

Particularse1 Assessmenti1 Assessmentr2 Assessment
ObjectiveTo evaluate basic cybersecurity hygieneTo evaluate the implementation of cybersecurity leading practices and their effectiveness against a broader range of cyber threats than e1To conduct a comprehensive risk-based evaluation of controls along with a compliance evaluation
Assessment validity1 year1 year with rapid recertification in year 22 years
Number of HITRUST CSF requirements44 controls182 controls in year 1 followed by about 60 controls in year 2 in case of rapid recertificationCan span over 300 controls in year 1 and approximately 40 in interim assessment carried out after 12 months
Time required3 months6-12 months18-24 months
AssuranceEntry-level assuranceModerate assuranceHigh-level of assurance
Control selection flexibilityThere is no control selection flexibility as per business requirementsThere is no control selection flexibility as per business requirementsControl selection flexibility as per business requirements is allowed

The assessor will also help you get access to the MyCSF portal and enter all necessary details such as controls, documentation, etc. to track assessment-related activities.

Carry out a readiness assessment

The next step involves gathering information about the current practices and controls and assessing them against requirements in the MyCSF tool. Each component or requirement needs to be supported with evidence. This process was previously worked as a self-assessment or self-scoring. However, most organizations engage with external assessor firms because the process is lengthy and complex.

The assessor conducts a preliminary review of existing controls, helps with evidence collection, and generates a readiness report along with gaps identified. The gap information then becomes the basis for creating a remediation plan.

Time required: 4-8 weeks


The identified gaps may exist on the documentation front, or there may be some missing/underperforming controls. The assessor will rank and prioritize these gaps based on associated risk and impact and will initiate corrective action. This will also require ongoing monitoring to track progress and ensure continuous improvement. Here are the steps involved in remediation:

  • Implement new policies, procedures, and technological solutions
  • Update any existing policies and communicate the changes
  • Establish responsibilities for every remediation task
  • Develop timelines for each task and the overall correction action plan
  • Schedule status updates for ongoing monitoring

Time required: 4 weeks to 6 months based on remediation efforts required

Save upto 60% on HITRUST certification costs

Undergo validated assessment testing

After remediation, the organization can begin with validated assessment testing. The assessor conducts control tests for every category as per HITRUST guidelines. IT teams, privacy officers, and other stakeholders must produce evidence for every implemented control. Employee interviews, vulnerability scans, penetration testing, and other methods of evaluation are employed in this phase to evaluate the maturity of 

  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Implementation
  • Measured
  • Managed

For every maturity level, the organization’s level of compliance is indicated as:

  • Non-compliant (0%)
  • Somewhat compliant (25%)
  • Partially compliant (50%)
  • Mostly compliant (75%)
  • Fully compliant (100%)

This final assessment is then sent to HITRUST for review.

Time required: 4-10 weeks

Compile a HITRUST Quality Assurance report

HITRUST reviews the validated assessment report against quality assurance criteria. The QA analyst may request any documentation that was not submitted or clarifications on any procedure that was performed. There are multiple rounds of review, after which the certification letter is issued. 

Overall, the certification process can take a minimum of 12 months; in some cases, the time taken can be 18-24 months.

How much does HITRUST certification cost?

At the lower end, the direct costs of HITRUST CSF certification can start from $30000, but the overall costs can exceed $160000. This is because the costs depend on several factors: organizational size, security maturity, level of compliance and more.

Direct costs for certification include access to the MyCSF corporate portal, gap analysis, readiness assessment, validation testing, and consultation costs if required.

Indirect costs include internal resource costs, technological deployments, ongoing compliance costs, remediation efforts, etc.

Benefits of HITRUST certification

A HITRUST CSF certification demonstrates the robustness of an organization’s cybersecurity program. On the operational front, this makes the organization less vulnerable to attacks and shortens the sales cycle because of fewer requirements while filling out security questionnaires.

These are the benefits of a HITRUST certification:

Regulatory compliance

HITRUST CSF combines controls and practices from frameworks such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, NIST, etc., emphasizing data protection. Implementing this stringent framework can lay a solid foundation to prepare you for several regulatory requirements.

Data security

HITRUST CSF integrates the highest information security and privacy standards into one comprehensive program. Getting certified exhibits a strong commitment to reducing data breaches and keeping up with data protection best practices.

Risk mitigation

Implementing controls and practices laid down by HITRUST CSF can help an organization build airtight security and create a compliance-first culture. This reduces risks related to incidents and ramifications related to non-compliance such as financial and reputation losses.

Reputation and trust

HITRUST CSF certification is tangible proof that organizations have cybersecurity best practices in place to safeguard healthcare information, a key consideration in this industry. It can provide a significant competitive advantage during client and partnership discussions and can enable the building of market trust and customer relationships. 

Sprinto: Empowering you for the HITRUST journey

HITRUST CSF certification can be challenging, comprehensive, and complex. Especially for first-timers. It can be resource-intensive in terms of resource allocation as well as from the financial investment POV. A smarter alternative here can be to opt for a compliance automation tool like Sprinto to prepare you for the journey ahead.

Sprinto can help you with initial gap assessment and implementation of security controls for frameworks such as HIPAA, ISO 27001, NIST etc. These certifications can lay a strong foundation for HITRUST CSF certification. Continuous monitoring of controls, live compliance health checks, integrated risk assessments, automated evidence collection, among many other features help you enable a strong security posture in record time. What typically takes you months is accomplished in a matter of weeks. Looking to get HIPAA certification before graduating to HITRUST? Sprinto can help you with that as well.


What types of businesses should obtain HITRUST certification?

Any organization that deals with sensitive information must obtain HITRUST certification. This includes healthcare providers such as hospitals, clinics and pharmaceuticals, telemedicine providers etc. It also includes other businesses dealing with critical information that must address risk and compliance management.

How long is HITRUST certification valid?

HITRUST certification (r2) is valid for 24 months and requires an interim assessment after 12 months. The interim assessment is an assurance of the ongoing effectiveness of implemented controls.

Does HITRUST replace HIPAA?

No, it does not. HITRUST certification requirements can lay the foundation for implementing HIPAA controls but it cannot replace HIPAA compliance.

How many domains does HITRUST have?

HITRUST has 19 domains which are further divided into controls followed by 3 levels of implementation.

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Payal is your friendly neighborhood compliance whiz! She turns perplexing compliance lingo into actionable advice about keeping your digital business safe and savvy. When she isn’t saving virtual worlds, she’s penning down poetic musings or lighting up local open mics. Cyber savvy by day, poet by night!

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