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health IT security
Contact

Kevin Stine
Information Technology Laboratory
Computer Security Division
kevin.stine@nist.gov
(301) 975-4483

Matt Scholl
Information Technology Laboratory
Computer Security Division
matthew.scholl@nist.gov
(301) 975-2941

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HIPAA Security Rule

NIST published "An Introductory Resource Guide for Implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule (SP 800-66 Revision 1)" in October 2008 to assist covered entities in understanding and properly using the set of federal information security requirements adopted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA, Public Law 104-191). HIPAA required the Secretary to adopt, among other standards, security standards for certain health information. These standards, known as the HIPAA Security Rule, were published on February 20, 2003.  In the preamble to the Security Rule, several NIST publications were cited as potentially valuable resources for readers with specific questions and concerns about IT security.

The HIPAA Security Rule specifically focuses on the safeguarding of electronic protected health information (EPHI). All HIPAA covered entities, which include some federal agencies, must comply with the Security Rule, which specifically focuses on protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of EPHI, as defined in the Security Rule. The EPHI that a covered entity creates, receives, maintains, or transmits must be protected against reasonably anticipated threats, hazards, and impermissible uses and/or disclosures.

Special Publication 800-66 Revision 1, which discusses security considerations and resources that may provide value when implementing the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule, was written to:  

  • Help to educate readers about information security terms used in the HIPAA Security Rule and to improve understanding of the meaning of the security standards set out in the Security Rule.
  • Direct readers to helpful information in other NIST publications on individual topics addressed by the HIPAA Security Rule.
  • Aid readers in understanding the security concepts discussed in the HIPAA Security Rule. This publication does not supplement, replace, or supersede the HIPAA Security Rule itself.

NIST publications, many of which are required for federal agencies, can serve as voluntary guidelines and best practices for state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector, and may provide enough depth and breadth to help organizations of many sizes select the type of implementation that best fits their unique circumstances. NIST security standards and guidelines (Federal Information Processing Standards [FIPS], Special Publications in the 800 series), which can be used to support the requirements of both HIPAA and FISMA, may be used by organizations to help provide a structured, yet flexible framework for selecting, specifying, employing, and evaluating the security controls in information systems.

Publications

HIPAA Rule
SP 800-66 Revision 1
An Introductory Resource Guide for Implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule This Special Publication discusses security considerations and resources that may provide value when implementing the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule.