The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has been a law in the United States since 1996. The law includes a wide range of different rules and regulations, especially concerning requirements on keeping patient information private. Storing and transmitting patient information is very regulated, which limits the options doctors, insurance companies and other people in the medical field have regarding email, storage and other activities.
Companies offering third party services such as email are required to sign a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Microsoft offers to sign the BAA for its Office365 products, making it a valid option for companies throughout the medical industry. As of late September, Google will now offer this as well for their gMail, Calendar and Drive apps. This will allow medical professionals to use these services to store and transmit customer information, including protected health information such as an individual’s name, address and information related to health and payments.
Those who want to use these apps for their business will need to read and agree to a three question online form. They also need to disable access to gMail, Calendar and Drive for any other apps which are not covered by this type of agreement.
This move by Google may help many medical facilities continue their HIPAA adoption efforts. Many companies have been slow to move all their medical records to digital formats because of the added expenses and difficulty. Having the option to use apps provide these services will make it much simpler for companies to move all their documents and information to an electronic format.
Of course, signing the BAA is just one small step in becoming HIPAA compliant, but it is an important one. This move will likely bring in many new users to Google’s library of applications.