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 G Suite, 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 G Suite subscriber and need to get Google Meet setup to be HIPAA compliant, be sure to check out our recently published recommended settings.
What is Google’s G Suite?
Google’s G Suite is a collection of productivity and collaboration tools. You’re probably already using many of the tools today, even if you’re not a G Suite subscriber.
G Suite 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 G Suite subscriptions is that Google will only provide a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for paid G Suite subscribers. This means there is no way to make free Gmail HIPAA compliant – only G Suite can be made HIPAA compliant.
How is G Suite different from Gmail?
We hear this question a lot – how is G Suite’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 G Suite.
Google Meet vs. Google Hangouts vs. Google Hangouts Meet
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 G Suite). Hopefully they won’t change the names again anytime soon, as it gets confusing! If you’re a current G Suite subscriber, you should have received notice 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 G Suite can be HIPAA compliant, but only the chat feature! Do not place video calls from Classic Hangouts in G Suite if you want to be HIPAA compliant. Classic Hangouts in G Suite will be phased out in later 2020.
- 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 removed restrictions, it’s in your client’s best interest to protect their data as much as possible.
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:
- Google Meet training and help
- Start a new video meeting
- Join a video meeting
- Add people to a video meeting
- Use a phone for audio in a video meeting
How do I make a call or join a meeting in Google Meet?
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 G Suite 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 G Suite account.
Do all participants of a Google Meet call need a G Suite account?
No! You don’t need a Google, G Suite 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 G Suite HIPAA compliant?
This is unfortunately a complicated answer. But we at Adelia Risk try to make it as easy as possible. You have a few choices:
- Follow the steps in our e-book: The Complete Guide to HIPAA-Compliant G Suite
- Let us perform an audit of your current G Suite system. We tell you exactly what settings to change: G Suite Security Review
- The easiest for you and your clients is our White Glove setup service. We properly configure your G Suite to be HIPAA compliant, add a user-friendly secure email service and advanced phishing protection: Adelia Risk White Glove G Suite Service
- Are you a solo practitioner or a very small practice (<5 employees)? You’ll love our HIPAA Mail program. It’s affordable, HIPAA compliant and we offer a free trial: HIPAA Mail
What’s new with Google Meet
Due to the coronavirus COVID-19, Google has made some changes to Google Meet:
- Quickly start or join Meet calls from Gmail. Learn more: https://support.google.com/a/users/answer/9829914
- Google is providing free advanced video conference features for all G Suite customers through September 30, 2020: calls with up to 250 people, ability to record meetings and save them in Drive, and live streaming for up to 100,000 members within a domain. Learn more: https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/g-suite/helping-businesses-and-schools-stay-connected-in-response-to-coronavirus
- In late April 2020, Meet will add the function to display up to 16 meeting participants on one screen, improve video quality and filter background noise. Learn more: https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/16/21223778/google-meet-gallery-view-calls-gmail-javier-soltero
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:
Free, with limits
Included with G Suite subscription
Starting at $12/month
Included with Office 365 subscription
Starting at $13.50/month
Zoom – Free
Zoom – Paid
Starting at $200/month
If you’re already using G Suite, 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?