Fundamental Purchasing Guide for Vendor Risk Management Software

Posted by Ken Reiher

Are you looking to purchase vendor risk management software for your healthcare organization? Our fundamental guide outlines the features and functionality to look for when evaluating solutions, along with an expanded definition of what constitutes a “business associate” and the types of business data to be protected when working with third parties.

Why Buy Vendor Risk Management Software?

Before the digital evolution of healthcare, partnerships with vendors were based on a handshake. Today, although we have complicated business associate agreements (BAAs) which are in part meant to hold third parties accountable for how they use, store and share protected health information (PHI), even BAAs are simply a piece of paper.

With potentially hundreds, or even thousands, of business associates (BAs) supporting your organization, the effort to manage them all and minimize any security risks is monumental, especially when ownership of many BAAs falls outside of the IT department.

The fact is, in today’s global economy and highly connected system of networks, we are susceptible to any attacker from any country who has a digital path right to our doorsteps. In 2018, an astounding 20% of healthcare data breaches occurred from third-party vendors.

We need to work even harder to protect information that could be exposed online. That includes how we interact with third-party vendors and business associates who are obligated to safeguard our data. Vendor risk management software helps manage the volume of BAAs, assess risk and prioritize mitigation steps, all meant to hold the covered entity (CE) and its third-party vendors accountable for the protection of data.

Must-Have Functionality for Vendor Risk Management

As you assess potential vendor risk management software solutions, we recommend you select a software that includes, at minimum, our top 5 features:

  • Management of unlimited business associates Key for scalability, this feature allows your vendor risk management (VRM) strategy to grow with your organization and enables enterprise-wide VRM.
  • Self-reporting of assessments Look for a vendor risk management software that will allow BAs and third-party vendors to complete and upload their own assessments directly in the system. This makes the high-volume VRM process more efficient and less time-consuming for you.
  • Risk filtering and prioritization To focus risk mitigation efforts in the areas of most need, look for functionality that ranks BAs on inherent risk level, based on how they use, store or disclose PHI.
  • Automatic notifications and logs Can you imagine sending assessment reminders to every single business partner in your inventory? Look for a software that automatically sends email notifications to vendors and provides an audit log of delivery.
  • Assessment reporting and metrics Accountability is critical for a thorough VRM process. Look for a solution that offers both summary and detailed reporting to track the status of BA assessments.

Protected Data is More than PHI

Though PHI is principle data to safeguard in a healthcare organization, there are other types of protected data to consider. You want to protect any type of data that is critical to the operations of the enterprise. Thus, when you expand your definition of protected data, your list of business partners also magnifies.

When developing your vendor risk management strategy, we recommend including any business partner that interacts with:

  • Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  • Intellectual Property (IP)
  • Business Intelligence (BI)

Who is Considered a Business Associate?

When implementing vendor risk management software, we recommend first beginning with an inventory of all potential business partners that use, store or disclose protected data, including:

  • Vendors
  • Contractors
  • Third parties
  • Covered entities
  • Downstream business associates

Now that you know what to look for in a vendor risk management software provider, take the next step. ComplyAssistant checks every box on the list. See for yourself – get a demo today.