HIPAA Compliance for Google Workspace
Data security and compliance are especially important when dealing with sensitive healthcare information. Ensuring that your business tools and platforms adhere to regulatory standards is crucial to maintaining the trust of your clients and avoiding costly penalties. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets forth strict requirements for patient data protection, making it vital to ask the question: Is Google Workspace HIPAA compliant?
Is Google Workspace HIPAA Compliant?
Google Workspace supports HIPAA compliance through a number of compliance measures that protect confidential user data. However, to be fully HIPAA compliant while using Google Workspace, end users must also take appropriate action to ensure the security of PHI and other sensitive data while using Workspace within a healthcare setting.
Some examples include signing a HIPAA BAA with Google, implementing two-factor authentication of Workspace accounts, and regularly training employees on their responsibilities under HIPAA to protect patient information.
- What is HIPAA?
- Is Google Workspace HIPAA compliant?
- Why does Google Workspace need to be HIPAA compliant?
- How to make Google Workspace HIPAA compliant
- Is HIPAA compliance all the coverage you need?
- How Aware can support HIPAA compliance in Google Workspace
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA regulates how covered healthcare entities must safeguard patient information during routine transactions. It consists of several rules and regulations, each serving a unique purpose.
- Privacy Rule—Establishes standards for the protection of individuals' medical records and protected health information (PHI).
- Security Rule—Outlines the safeguards that must be in place to protect electronic PHI (ePHI), ensuring its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
- Unique Identifiers Rule—Assigns unique identifiers to healthcare providers, health plans, and employers for standardizing electronic transactions.
- Transactions and Code Set Rule—Sets standards for electronic healthcare transactions, including code sets for diagnoses and procedures.
- Enforcement Rule—Outlines penalties and procedures for enforcing compliance with the other HIPAA rules.
What is Protected Health Information (PHI)?
PHI is any individually identifiable health information, including patient names, addresses, social security numbers, and medical records. HIPAA strictly regulates the use, disclosure, and storage of PHI.
Compliance with HIPAA is not just a checkbox—it impacts how data is collected, how long it can be stored, and how it must be protected. Willful failure to comply with HIPAA can result in penalties of $50,000 or more per incident.
Is Google Workspace HIPAA compliant?
Google Workspace—formerly G-suite—is Google's answer to Microsoft Office. Google's range of cloud-based tools include SaaS applications for email, word processing, data entry, presentation creation, collaboration and more. Using Google Workspace, businesses can run a cohesive and interconnected digital workplace accessible to all their employees from any location.
Top Google Workspace apps include Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slide.
HIPAA-covered entities such as healthcare providers, insurance companies, and clearing houses who choose Google services for their business needs must understand how the Workspace platform supports HIPAA regulations and fulfills their obligations to protect PHI. Some essential steps toward HIPAA compliance in Google Workspace include:
- Using a paid version of Google Workspace, such as Google Workspace Enterprise.
- Signing a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Google. A BAA is a legally binding document that establishes Google as a "business associate" and outlines its responsibilities for protecting ePHI.
- Configuring Workspace for PHI, including limiting PHI to core services, restricting access to authorized personnel, and implementing encryption to protect data.
Why does Google Workspace need to be HIPAA compliant?
It is crucial for covered entities to use Google Workspace in ways that are HIPAA compliant, not just to shield themselves from penalties and regulatory action, but to protect the private health information of the patients they treat.
There are any number of ways that PHI can be breached unless the right precautions are taken proactively to prevent both malicious and accidental data leaks. Using the right security and encryption configurations in the admin console can stop hackers from gaining access to PHI and limit the damage done by internal bad actors.
Even simple steps such as training employees on choosing strong passwords and establishing protocols to immediately report any suspicious activity can strengthen HIPAA compliance and risk posture in Google Workspace, helping to maintain trust and credibility.
How to make Google Workspace HIPAA compliant
HIPAA compliance in Google Workspace involves several steps that ensure the proper storage, handling, and monitoring of PHI. The first is signing a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Google, outlining the responsibilities of each party to ensure the compliant handling of sensitive data.
Next, administrators must ensure their Workspace is properly configured to meet HIPAA standards using Google’s available functionality and third-party integrations. Variable factors, including encryption, access controls, and data storage practices, must all be addressed to ensure they meet current HIPAA requirements. Employees must also be trained on their obligations to safeguard data under HIPAA. This includes reviewing best practices for handling ePHI and defining company standards and protocols for accessing or transmitting PHI.
To ensure ongoing compliance and mitigate HIPAA violations as quickly as possible, regularly auditing and monitoring Google Workspace for HIPAA compliance is extremely important. It’s also important to protect and preserve PHI and other sensitive data with robust backup and recovery mechanisms that ensure retention requirements are met while preserving data integrity and availability.
Is HIPAA compliance all the coverage you need?
While HIPAA compliance is crucial for healthcare organizations, it's not the only regulation that might apply to your business. Depending on your industry and the nature of your operations, other compliance standards, such as HITRUST, may also be relevant. It's essential to assess your specific compliance needs comprehensively and explore how to configure Google Workspace to meet all the compliance obligations governing your digital workplace.
Learn more about security and your risk posture in Google Drive
How Aware can support HIPAA compliance in Google Workspace
Aware enables healthcare organizations and other covered entities to meet their HIPAA compliance obligations within digital tools where employees collaborate. Aware’s native Google Drive integration supports risk mitigation and compliance adherence within this dataset using industry-leading natural language processing (NLP) AI workflows that safeguarding data using keyword and regular expression (regex) driven automations.
By providing continuous insight into complex datasets using easily configurable workflows, Aware swiftly identifies potential data breaches, facilitating prompt remediation and enhancing cybersecurity. Learn more about how Aware proactively detects unauthorized behavior and supports HIPAA compliance for Google products.
Learn more about Aware for Google now