Google Voice and HIPAA Compliance
Why you might want an internet phone line for your lactation practice
Having a business phone line that is managed through a HIPAA-compliant app on your phone is a great way to prevent client information from leaking into your personal accounts. If you use an iPhone, for example, you really don’t want to risk having clients text you through iMessage, which is not HIPAA compliant because Apple will not give you a BAA. Google Voice may be a great option for you, but you need to make sure you know what you’re getting into and how to set it up correctly.
HIPAA and your internet phone (VoIP)
If you’re a lactation consultant in the US, then you’re a HIPAA-covered entity, and that means that all your electronic solutions need to be HIPAA-compliant. That means anything that contains any information about your clients that is transmitted over the internet, from emails to document storage to internet-based phone systems, has to meet legal standards set out by the US government.
While internet phone systems may be able to go through your mobile device, they are considered electronic transmissions because they use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), rather than a standard telecom network like a landline or mobile phone uses. This means that VoIP services are subject to HIPAA, and in order to use a VoIP service in your private practice you would need a provider to give you a Business Associate Agreement (BAA).
Google Voice and HIPAA compliance
You can never, ever use any free Google services in your private practice. The only way to have HIPAA compliance with Google products is with a paid G-Suite account. G-Suite plans begin at $6/user/month with access to email, document storage. You will need to sign a BAA with G-Suite which you can do very easily.
However, your G-Suite plan does not include Google Voice—you will need to pay extra for this feature, which can be activated following these instructions. Plans start at $20/user/month. With a paid Google Voice plan, you will be able to send and receive phone calls and SMS text through your mobile phone, and integrate with all your other G-Suite services like Contacts, Meet (HIPAA-compliant video chat) and Mail.
While texting with a paid Google Voice plan is HIPAA-compliant, it is not a substitute for secure messaging.
Alternatives to Google Voice
I’m thrilled that Google has finally released a HIPAA-compliant way to use Google Voice. It’s not free, but that should never be the deciding factor. If you want integration with all your other Google services at a price point that’s comparable to standalone internet phone services, then Google Voice is now a great option.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Annie Frisbie, MA, IBCLC is the creator of the Lactation Consultant Private Practice Toolkit, a collection of books, resources, legal forms, training manuals, and workbooks designed to help private practice lactation consultants build a private practice that’s ethical, profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable.
In 2018 she was honored with the US Lactation Consultant Association's President's Award. Through her popular blog, online store, podcast, and one-on-one coaching, Annie has helped thousands of lactation consultants grow their businesses with simple systems that make their lives feel easier and more joyful!