Can I use Google Hangouts Chat and be HIPAA compliant?

Can I use Google Hangouts Chat and be HIPAA Compliant? - Paubox

It was announced today that Google’s Slack competitor, Hangouts Chat, came out of beta.

Hangouts Chat is Google’s take on modern workplace communication and is now available as a core part of Google Workspace. The natural question then arises, is Google Hangouts Chat HIPAA compliant?

We know the HIPAA industry is vast so we can empathize with just how many people need to use cloud 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 Chat offers HIPAA compliant service or not.

SEE ALSO: HIPAA Breaches and Cloud Providers

About Google Hangouts Chat

Google Hangouts Chat is a messaging platform built for teams. In essence, Hangouts Chat is Google’s competitive rebuttal to Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Google Hangouts Chat 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), Hangouts Meet, Google Keep, Google Cloud Search, Google Sites, Jamboard, and Google Vault services.

Does Google Hangouts Chat 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 Google Workspace product line.

In other words, the Google BAA only includes coverage for certain services in Google Workspace.

We can see evidence of this on pages 4 & 5 of the HIPAA Compliance with Google Workspace guide.

Can I use Google Hangouts Chat and be HIPAA Compliant? - Paubox

Can I use Google Hangouts Chat and be HIPAA Compliant? - Paubox

Conclusion: Google Hangouts Chat is HIPAA compliant.

While it’s quite confusing (as of today), it should be noted that certain services within Google Hangouts are not HIPAA compliant. Those services are: Video Chat, SMS and VOIP components of Google Hangouts.

SEE ALSO: Is Gmail HIPAA Compliant?

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About the author

Hoala Greevy

Founder CEO Paubox. Kayak fishing when I can.

Read more by Hoala Greevy

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