HIPAA vs GDPR (Differences and Similarities)

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Mar 11, 2024


The compliance function of an organization can be likened to the brakes on a car. And now, this might get you to think…while the brakes (compliance) may slow progress, they are essential for maintaining control and navigating tricky situations. 

HIPAA and GDPR are two frameworks that aim to protect personal information, but they do this differently. The similarities between HIPAA and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) lie mainly in their common goal: keeping people’s data safe. 

Let’s dive into understanding the differences between HIPAA vs GDPR.

What is HIPAA, and why is it required?

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a vital US federal law requiring healthcare organizations to protect patient data’s confidentiality and integrity while ensuring its availability.

The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules were established in 1996 by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to ensure patient confidential medical information remains secure. And to further strengthen security measures for patient data protection, additional regulations were introduced in 2000 and 2003 to safeguard privacy.

what is HIPAA

With HIPAA compliance mandatory for small and large healthcare organizations. It all boils down to your understanding of what it is and how it can help protect user data. HIPAA is a cornerstone in healthcare protection today, from preventing fraud to enabling secure transmission of medical records across networks.

What is GDPR and why is it required?

The European Union created the GDPR to protect people’s data in the increasingly digital world. It requires companies around the world to comply with strict regulations when it comes to collecting, processing, and storing personal data. 

Despite its complexity and far-reaching implications, the GDPR is necessary for protecting individuals from potential misuse or abuse of their information.

What is GDPR

Today, hackers are becoming more sophisticated as more businesses move towards cloud computing. This means that personal data is at greater risk than ever before. The GDPR helps combat this issue by requiring organizations to implement appropriate measures when handling private information and ensuring that any breaches are addressed quickly and effectively. 

In short, the GDPR helps protect people’s safety and privacy within the digital data landscape. As a business, you must understand GDPR regulations to comply with its requirements and avoid costly penalties.

Difference between HIPAA and GDPR

The main difference between HIPAA and GDPR is that HIPAA focuses explicitly on healthcare institutions in the US and how personal health data is managed, while GDPR takes a much wider lens. It applies to any company operating worldwide that processes or stores personally identifiable information of EU/UK citizens.

And that’s when you might hit a snag. Now let’s take a closer look at HIPAA vs GDPR:

ConsentUnder HIPAA, healthcare providers can disclose PHI (Protected Health Information) without patient consent. HIPAA broadly defines “treatment” as the provision, coordination, or management of healthcare and related services by one or more providers, allowing PHI to be sent to another provider for treatment. 
HIPAA also permits healthcare providers to disclose PHI to other providers or business associates to conduct certain necessary operations. 
In stark contrast, the GDPR does not permit PHI disclosure without explicit consent from EU data subjects. GDPR emphasizes the importance of protecting individuals within their digital experience by requiring companies to obtain clear consent from data subjects before processing their personal data, including PHI. 
Data BreachesUnder HIPAA, if more than 500 individuals are affected, you must notify all relevant supervisory authorities in the EU and any media outlets or other communication channels available. Under  GDPR, organizations must protect personal data and take sufficient measures to prevent data breaches.  It’s essential that you inform your supervisory authority within 72 hours after becoming aware of it. 
ScopeHIPAA’s more specific regulations apply primarily to healthcare providers and their business associates. An example of a symptom indicating when HIPAA might be applicable is if you are working with PHI, as this type of data requires a higher level of security measures as outlined by the regulation. GDPR has a wide scope that extends across operating boundaries
Sharing information with third partiesHIPAA  is more restrictive regarding how patient records can be shared with third parties such as insurers or research facilities. 
In accordance with GDPR and the Data Protection Act of 2018, you could share sensitive information without consent if it is justified by law due to a potential safety risk.
Right to be forgottenHIPAA does not offer “Right to be forgotten” grantGDPR grants individuals the unique “Right to be Forgotten,

What are the similarities between HIPAA and GDPR?

GDPR and HIPAA share many similarities working together to safeguard individuals’ privacy. Both provide detailed regulations that ensure personal data is handled securely when used, disclosed, stored, or shared – guaranteeing the protection of users’ valuable information.


Here are the similarities in detail:

  • GDPR and HIPAA require a secure approach to handling confidential data
  • Both require techniques to identify and prevent unapproved adjustments to PHI
  • The secure transmission and storage of Protected Health Information (PHI) is mandatory in both cases
  • Both necessitate an appointed Data Protection Officer (DPO)
  • By utilizing either of these solutions, businesses can prioritize the privacy and safety of their clients, patients, and employees.

Hence, HIPAA vs GDPR for an organization helps in many ways!

HIPAA vs GDPR With Sprinto 

The difference between GDPR and HIPAA proves that they are complex regulations you must take seriously. In summary, although the two are similar in purpose and language, there are key differences in their obligations and restrictions that you should remember when considering data handling systems for either medical or European customer data. 

HIPAA focuses mainly on healthcare providers, while GDPR is more concerned with protecting general consumer data. When it comes to companies in the United States that come under the purview of compliances, they must simultaneously comply – a challenge if not planned for correctly. 

If you would like to know how these compliance regulations affect your organization’s  GDPR and HIPAA journey, then, talk to our experts today! A powerful compliance platform that will help you get audit ready in weeks. Get a free demo to understand how it works!


Does GDPR apply to PHI?

Absolutely, the GDPR applies to all personal data of those within its jurisdiction, while HIPAA has a much more restricted area of influence and only affects PHI (Protected Health Information).

Does HIPAA apply to Europe?

No, HIPAA does not offer legal coverage beyond international boundaries. HIPAA only protects covered entities such as health care providers, health plans, clearinghouses, and their contracted business associates. 

Does GDPR cover health information?

Yes, the GDPR acknowledges personal health data as a unique information classification, offering a distinct definition for data protection.

Does GDPR apply to US patients?

No, the GDPR does not apply to US citizens based in the United States. However, several federal and state-level privacy regulations offer comparable protections.

Meeba Gracy

Meeba Gracy

Meeba, an ISC2-certified cybersecurity specialist, passionately decodes and delivers impactful content on compliance and complex digital security matters. Adept at transforming intricate concepts into accessible insights, she’s committed to enlightening readers. Off the clock, she can be found with her nose in the latest thriller novel or exploring new haunts in the city.

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