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Is Google Meet HIPAA Compliant? (Easy answers to 6 common questions)

We have heard from practices all over that want to start using Google Meet for telemedicine. One of their first questions is “Is Google Meet HIPAA compliant?” This article will explore Google’s Google Workspace, common questions about Google Meet and a quick comparison of other telemedicine/teleconferencing options.

We’ve seen a tremendous increase in interest about Google Meet and telemedicine options in general. Even though the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the following:

OCR will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. (source)

So yes, you could use other programs for telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. But when Google Meet is easy to use, affordable AND can be used for HIPAA compliant telehealth? Why not give it a try?

If you’re a current Google Workspace subscriber and need to get Google Meet setup to be HIPAA compliant, be sure to check out our recommended settings.

What is Google Workspace?

Google Workspace is a collection of productivity and collaboration tools. You’re probably already using many of the tools today, even if you’re not a Google Workspace subscriber.

Google Workspace subscriptions include:

    • Gmail: custom email @yourcompany.com
    • Drive: secure cloud storage and file sharing
    • Calendar: easy scheduling
    • Meet: use for telehealth
    • Keep: note-taking
    • Chat: messaging
    • Docs, Sheets, Slides: similar to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, Powerpoint
    • Admin Center: manage settings
    • Vault: archive data

All of these tools together create an awesome program for businesses and medical practices.

Almost all of these tools are available with the free edition of Gmail. The key difference between the free tools and the paid Google Workspace subscriptions is that Google will only provide a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for paid Google Workspace subscribers. This means there is no way to make free Gmail HIPAA compliant - only Google Workspace can be made HIPAA compliant.

BAA does not mean HIPAA compliance

But here’s a disclaimer that many private practice “influencers” miss: signing a BAA with Google does not make your Google Workspace HIPAA compliant.

Seriously – Google CLEARLY says

“Customers are responsible for … ensuring that they use Google services in compliance with HIPAA.”

“PHI is allowed only in a subset of Google services.”

“These Google covered services … must be configured by IT administrators to help ensure that PHI is properly protected."

So yes, Google Workspace CAN be HIPAA compliant, but it’s not compliant right out of the box.

You need to make sure your account is secure.

Our Secure Cloud program will make sure your Google Workspace account is safe and secure.

How is Google Workspace different from Gmail?

We hear this question a lot - how is Google Workspace’s Gmail different from free Gmail? Honestly, it’s not much different. So if you’re comfortable using free Gmail, you’ll have no problem using Google Workspace. The only difference is paid Workspace Gmail vs. free regular Gmail.

Google Meet vs. Google Hangouts vs. Google Hangouts Meet Google Meet icon

Google Meet and Google Hangouts Meet are the same product. At the time of this writing, Google is in the process of changing some things with their Chat and Video options. So for a while, Google Hangouts Chat and Google Hangouts Meet were for chatting and making video calls. Now they are transitioning to Google Hangouts (for free Gmail) and Google Chat and Meet (for Google Workspace). Hopefully they won’t change the names again anytime soon, as it gets confusing!  If you’re a current Google Workspace subscriber, you should have received notices about these changes.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Google Meet can be HIPAA compliant, if it’s set up the correct way.
  • Chat in Classic Hangouts in Google Workspace can be HIPAA compliant, but only the chat feature! Do not place video calls from Classic Hangouts in Google Workspace if you want to be HIPAA compliant. Classic Hangouts in Google Workspace will be phased out in Spring 2022.
  • Google Hangouts (free gmail edition) is NOT HIPAA compliant, since Google will not provide a BAA for free gmail accounts.

So YES, you can use Google Meet for HIPAA compliant telehealth. Even though the OCR temporarily removed restrictions, it’s in your client’s best interest to protect their data as much as possible.

Is Google Meet HIPAA Compliant

Common Questions about Google Meet:

Is Google Meet easy to use?

Google Meet is very easy to use. Google has a very helpful Learning Center with clear directions:

How do I make a call or join a meeting in Google Meet?

Open https://meet.google.com/ and click ‘Join or start a Meeting’. Learn more here: https://support.google.com/a/users/answer/9302870

Why does it say “your account only lets you join meetings” in Google Meet?

If you can only join meetings and not start meetings, it means a setting in the Google Workspace Admin Center needs to be changed in order to give you the ability to start meetings. It could also mean you’re logged into a free Gmail account and not your Google Workspace account.

Do all participants of a Google Meet call need a Google Workspace account?

No! You don’t need a Google, Google Workspace or free Gmail account to join a Meet meeting. The meeting organizer will need to grant access to any participants without a Google account. Learn more in the Learning Center. Please note: If a participant doesn’t have a Google account, they cannot join the meeting from their mobile device.

How do I get a BAA from Google?

Google makes it easy to accept the Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Follow the instructions here: https://support.google.com/a/answer/3407074?hl=en

How do I make Google Meet HIPAA compliant?

The quickest way is through our Secure Cloud program. We audit your settings and work with you to make your Google Workspace safe, secure and HIPAA compliant. Learn more: https://adeliarisk.com/secure-cloud-for-healthcare-practices/ 

What’s new with Google Meet

Google is always improving their products, and Google Meet has changed quite a bit over the last few years. 

You can add co-hosts, move participants to Breakout rooms, lock audio/video, and more.

You can see the full list of updates here: https://support.google.com/meet/answer/9545619 

Other Telemedicine/Telehealth Options

Did we miss one? Add it in the comment section!

Depending on you and your patients’ needs, one of these other options might work for you:

Includes BAA Cost
Doxy.me Yes Free, with limits
FaceTime No -
Google Meet Yes Included with Google Workspace subscription
GoToMeeting Yes Starting at $12/month
Microsoft Teams Yes Included with Microsoft365 subscription
VSee Yes $49/month
WebEx Yes Starting at $13.50/month
Zoom - Free No Free
Zoom - Paid Yes Starting at $200/month

If you’re already using Google Workspace, Google Meet is the slam dunk answer to telemedicine. There is no additional cost and it’s easy to use. Plus, Google Meet is HIPAA compliant once it’s set up properly! That’s the answer you were looking for, right?

Questions? Leave a comment below.

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2 comments on “Is Google Meet HIPAA Compliant? (Easy answers to 6 common questions)”

  1. Good Day!

    We are a telemedicine company and we would like to inquire more about HIPAA compliance. I would like to ask if google meet, once set up as HIPAA compliant, can have access to a booking schedule and has integrations for stripe and sending documents to and from the patient?

    It would be nice to know how this can work on telemedicine.

    Thanks!

    Kind regards,
    Cassie of Clendenin MD

    1. Check out Acuity Scheduling - they can handle the online calendar, collecting payment and automatically setting up a Meet conference for each appointment. Unfortunately there is no way to do that all in Google Workspace. Hope this helps!

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