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What are the main differences and similarities between PCI DSS and HIPAA?

We get asked frequently about how being compliant with the PCI Data Security Standard can assist with achieving compliance with other regulations, standards and guidelines. Today we are looking at the similarities, and differences between PCI DSS and HIPAA, and where achieving PCI compliance can significantly assist your HIPAA strategy.

Similarities Between PCI DSS and HIPAA

The PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are both regulations that aim to protect sensitive information from threats and misuse. However, they have some key differences in terms of their scope and requirements, but first let’s look at where they are similar.

One of the main similarities between PCI DSS and HIPAA is that they both require organisations to implement security controls to protect sensitive information. The PCI DSS has a set of 12 principles which act as guiding standards for organisations.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule, or Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information. Additionally, the Security Rule establishes a national set of security standards for protecting specific health information that is held or transferred in electronic form.

Both standards have specific requirements for encryption, access controls, and regular security assessments.

Both also have a compliance certification process that organisations must go through to demonstrate their adherence to the standard.

Key Differences Between PCI DSS and HIPAA

So they have similar objectives, criteria and certification processes but how do they differ?

A key difference between the two regulations is the scope of the sensitive information they protect. PCI DSS applies specifically to credit card data, while HIPAA applies to all personal health information (PHI). This means that an organisation that handles credit card data but does not handle PHI would only need to be compliant with PCI DSS, whereas an organisation that handles PHI would need to comply with both HIPAA and PCI DSS.

Another difference between the two standards is the types of organisations that are subject to them. PCI DSS applies to any organisation that accepts credit card payments, regardless of their size or industry. On the other hand, HIPAA applies only to healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses.

HIPAA also has specific requirements for breach notification, which is not present in PCI DSS. Under HIPAA, organisations must notify affected individuals and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of a breach of PHI. PCI DSS does not have similar requirements, but credit card companies may impose penalties on merchants who suffer a data breach.

In terms of compliance, PCI DSS has a certification process that is performed by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), while HIPAA has a certification process that is performed by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under the Department of Health and Human Services.

In conclusion, compliance with PCI DSS and HIPAA is essential for organisations handling sensitive information be that health-specific or credit card details.  If you’re unsure about your compliance status with HIPAA or need help navigating the requirements, we recommend seeking the help of a professional HIPAA consultant. They can help you understand the regulations, assess your current security controls, and develop a plan to achieve and maintain compliance.

Not sure on your PCI compliance strategy?  Don’t wait, take action today and speak to us at PCI Pal to ensure the payment security of your business and customers.