Is Google Hangouts HIPAA compliant?

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Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant? - Paubox

Last week our sales team told me a common question coming up with customers and prospects: Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant?

We know the HIPAA industry is vast so we can empathize with just how many people need to use video services in this sector.

SEE ALSO: Google & HIPAA Compliance: The Ultimate Guide

UPDATE: In April 2020, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the Notification of Enforcement Discretion, which allows healthcare providers to use widely available communication apps, such as [name of the app], for telehealth services without the risk of incurring HIPAA fines. For more information, check out this recent Paubox blog post.

In previous posts, we’ve covered the following cloud solutions and their capabilities for HIPAA compliance:

Today, we will determine if Google Hangouts offers HIPAA compliant service or not.

SEE ALSO: HIPAA Breaches and Cloud Providers

About Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a communication platform developed by Google which includes:

  • Instant Messaging
  • Video Chat
  • SMS
  • VOIP

The current version of Google Hangouts replaces three messaging products that Google had previously implemented: Google Talk, Google+ Messenger (formerly: Huddle), and the original Hangouts, a video chat system present within Google+.

Google Hangouts and the Business Associate Agreement

We’ve previously talked about how a Business Associate Agreement is a written contract between a Covered Entity and a Business Associate. It is required by law for HIPAA compliance.

We checked Google and found a page called HIPAA Compliance with Google Workspace. On that page, Google states:

Google offers a BAA covering Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive (including Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms), Google Hangouts (chat messaging feature only)…

Does Google Hangouts Offer HIPAA Compliant Service?

The Business Associate Agreement is a key component to HIPAA compliance between a covered entity and a business associate. While Google does offer to sign a BAA with covered entities and business associates, it does not cover their entire product line.

In other words, the Google BAA only includes coverage for certain services. We can see this again on page 4 of the HIPAA Compliance with G Suite guide.

Is Google Hangouts HIPAA Compliant? - Paubox

Conclusion: Only the Chat Messaging feature in Google Hangouts is HIPAA Compliant. If you need to be HIPAA compliant, you should not use the Video Chat, SMS or VOIP components of Google Hangouts.

SEE ALSO: Is Microsoft Azure HIPAA Compliant?

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About the author

Hoala Greevy

Founder of Paubox. Kayak fishing when I can. Native Hawaiian CEO.

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