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April 25, 2024
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 min read

Is G-Suite HIPAA Compliant?

Discover how to make G Suite HIPAA compliant with our detailed guide. Learn about HIPAA requirements, signing BAAs, and enhancing security for managing PHI.

Is G-Suite HIPAA Compliant?
Calendar Icon White
April 25, 2024
Clock Icon
 min read

Is G-Suite HIPAA Compliant?

Discover how to make G Suite HIPAA compliant with our detailed guide. Learn about HIPAA requirements, signing BAAs, and enhancing security for managing PHI.


  • Ensuring that Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) meets HIPAA standards is essential for healthcare organizations that manage PHI.
  • Foundational steps include signing a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Google, enhancing login protocols, and implementing strong data encryption.
  • Certain Google Workspace services must be precisely configured to safeguard PHI and comply with HIPAA.
  • Regularly updating security measures and auditing settings are vital for ongoing compliance and protection against emerging threats.
  • Strac keeps G Suite HIPAA compliant through automated PHI detection, integrated data loss prevention across platforms, and continuous monitoring.

Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite, is a suite of cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools including popular applications like Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar. These tools are designed to streamline communication and enhance productivity. 

Managing protected health information (PHI) within these digital environments presents specific challenges, particularly due to the severe penalties associated with noncompliance. Improperly configured Google Workspace can expose healthcare information to significant compliance vulnerabilities, risk financial penalties, and cause reputational harm.

This guide provides a detailed roadmap for configuring Google Workspace to meet HIPAA standards. We’ll discuss the specifics and resolve the pressing concern, "Is G Suite HIPAA compliant?" Let’s begin.

What Are HIPAA Requirements?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 is a federal law designed to ensure the protection and confidential handling of protected health information (PHI). Besides safeguarding medical information, HIPAA also modernizes the flow of healthcare information, setting forth a series of regulatory standards for the privacy and security of PHI.

HIPAA defines how personally identifiable information maintained by the healthcare industry should be protected from fraud and theft. Understanding whether Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) is HIPAA compliant requires considering the HIPAA requirements and how they relate to Google services. Here are the key components:

1. HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. It applies to health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare providers that conduct certain healthcare transactions electronically. This rule mandates appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of ​​Protected Health Information (PHI) and sets conditions on its use and disclosure.

2. HIPAA Security Rule

This rule specifies administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic PHI (ePHI). It applies to ePHI that a covered entity creates, receives, maintains, or transmits, requiring protections against reasonably anticipated threats.

3. HIPAA Unique Identifiers Rule

Under this rule, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) establishes standards for identifying individuals, employers, health plans, and healthcare providers in electronic transactions, enhancing the efficiency of health information transmission.

4. HIPAA Transactions and Code Sets Rule

This rule requires adopting standardized methods for electronically exchanging health information related to billing and payment for services. Essentially, it mandates that health information be exchanged electronically and diagnoses and procedures be coded using national code sets.

5. HIPAA Enforcement Rule

The HIPAA Enforcement Rule contains provisions regarding compliance and investigations, civil money penalties for violations, and hearing procedures. It lays out the investigation process.

By understanding these rules, healthcare providers can better assess how to configure and use Google Workspace in compliance with HIPAA standards, ensuring that their use of cloud-based tools aligns with federal requirements for data protection.

Is Google Workspace HIPAA compliant?

Google Workspace can be configured to meet the compliance requirements set forth by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). However, achieving HIPAA compliance with Google Workspace involves meeting certain prerequisites.

It's crucial to enter into a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Google to align your use of Workspace with HIPAA. This agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the responsibilities of both parties in managing and protecting PHI. 

To comply with HIPAA, organizations must subscribe to a paid Google Workspace plan, such as Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise, or Education editions. The free versions of Google Workspace do not provide the necessary features for HIPAA compliance, such as advanced security settings and audit capabilities.

How is the BAA signed with Google?

With Google Workspace, getting a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is very straightforward:

  • Log in as an administrator: Sign in to your Google Workspace account with administrative privileges.
  • Navigate to legal settings: Access the Admin console, then go to the "Company Profile", click on "Show More", and select "Legal & Compliance".
  • Review and accept the BAA: In the "Security and Privacy Additional Terms" section, you will find the "HIPAA Business Associate Amendment". Click "Review and Accept".
  • Verify and confirm: You will be prompted to answer three questions to confirm that your organization is a HIPAA-covered entity. Upon confirmation, click "I accept" to finalize the agreement.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your use of Google Workspace is compliant with HIPAA standards, safeguarding the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI.

Which G Suite Services Comply With HIPAA?

Google specifies several core services within Google Workspace that, when properly configured and used in accordance with the signed BAA, can support HIPAA compliance:

  • Gmail
  • Drive
  • Calendar
  • Keep
  • Google Sites
  • App Sheet
  • Jamboard
  • Vault
  • Google Cloud Search
  • Google Chat and Google Meet

Important Configuration Considerations

While the above services are covered by Google’s BAA, achieving HIPAA compliance also requires that they be configured correctly. One must constantly evaluate if Google Suite is HIPAA compliant by ensuring all settings and features align.

  • Access controls: It’s critical to manage who has access to PHI. Implementing role-based access controls (RBAC) helps ensure that only authorized personnel can view or edit PHI.
  • Encryption: Data must be encrypted both in transit and at rest. Google provides built-in encryption for data stored on its services, but additional encryption measures may be required depending on the organization’s specific HIPAA compliance needs.
  • Audit controls: Organizations must set up audit logs to track access and modifications to PHI within Google Workspace. This helps them meet HIPAA’s auditability requirements.
  • Enable two-factor authentication: 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two forms of identification before accessing to PHI. This significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access resulting from compromised credentials.
  • Control third-party integrations: Third-party applications and integrations can pose significant risks if they are not properly managed. It is important to control which third-party services can access PHI.

How Can G-Suite Be Made HIPAA-Compliant?

Ensuring HIPAA compliance using Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) involves several critical steps. Each step is designed to safeguard PHI by adhering to HIPAA's stringent requirements.

  • Sign the business associate agreement: Answering is G Suite HIPAA compliant involves signing a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Google. This contract obligates Google to protect PHI in accordance with HIPAA guidelines.
  • Enforce enhanced login protocols: All users logging into the system must use multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds a layer of security by requiring additional verification beyond a username and password.
  • Ensure email security: Email filters can prevent PHI from being sent to unauthorized recipients, and encryption protocols can protect data in transit.
  • Deactivate unused features: Minimize security risks by disabling any unused or unnecessary features in Google Workspace. This reduces potential entry points for data breaches.
  • Use distinct user groups: Role-based access control minimizes the potential for unauthorized access and simplifies permission management within G Suite. It is important that each group only has access to the resources it needs to complete its specific tasks.
  • Activate anomaly detection alerts: Configure anomaly detection and monitoring within G Suite to receive alerts about unusual activity that could indicate a breach. These measures help identify and mitigate risks before they cause significant damage.

Despite taking robust precautions, accidental HIPAA breaches can still occur. Thus, compliance must be managed effectively through a comprehensive solution.

How Does Strac Simplify Achieving Hipaa Compliance For Google Workspace?

Strac is a modern, intelligent DLP (Data Loss Prevention) platform that significantly simplifies HIPAA compliance for Google Workspace users. Here’s how Strac's features enhance compliance efforts:

Automated Detection And Redaction Of PHI

Strac leverages advanced machine learning models to accurately detect and redact PHI across various Google Workspace applications such as Gmail, Drive, and Chat. Automating this crucial aspect of compliance helps prevent the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information.

Integrated Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

The platform's DLP capabilities extend beyond Google Workspace to include popular applications such as Slack, Zendesk, and Salesforce. This comprehensive approach ensures consistent HIPAA compliance across all tools handling digital PHI.

Easy Integration And Scalability

Designed for seamless integration and flexibility, Strac can be deployed quickly and is scalable. This ease of deployment allows for rapid compliance with HIPAA requirements within Google Workspace environments.

Tokenization And Proxy Apis For Zero Data Architecture

To further enhance data security, Strac offers tokenization and proxy APIs to process PHI without it ever residing on servers. This "Zero Data architecture" aligns perfectly with HIPAA’s stringent data protection requirements, significantly easing compliance efforts.

Continuous Monitoring And Auditing

Strac also provides continuous monitoring and auditing features to detect policy violations or potential data breaches involving PHI. This constant vigilance helps organizations maintain ongoing compliance with HIPAA regulations, ensuring that any issues are promptly identified and addressed.

Founder, Strac. ex-Amazon Payments Infrastructure (Widget, API, Security) Builder for 11 years.

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