HIPAA vs GDPR Compliance: What’s the Difference?

Updated: 15 hours ago

Vector Representation of HIPAA vs GDPR
GDPR vs. HIPAA: Key Differences and Similarities

Markets worldwide are moving towards a more mature attitude toward the Information Security of consumers. One of the biggest changes in the attitude toward information security is the classification of which data is considered sensitive. Medical data is also classified as being sensitive data of the users. GDPR and HIPAA are two of the most rigorous information security compliances that are inherently different but may overlap in some of the data that they protect.

While Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is specifically designed for medical data, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) covers PII (Personal Identifiable Information), including medical information. Let’s dive deep into GDPR and HIPAA, and look at key points of difference between them.


Over the years, medical records have been the center of data breaches caused by cyber-attacks. That is why legislation was needed to ensure that corporations kept up with the appropriate security measures to ensure that users’ medical data is kept secure.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a European Regulation that is intended to protect the privacy rights of European Union Data Subjects. It is proactive compliance that stresses organizations to ask for compliance at every step of data acquisition and processing. It has been described as "the biggest shake-up of online privacy since the birth of the internet." The personal data of its subjects that it protects also includes medical records as they can be used to identify or associate with a person.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA is a United States legislation directly intended to protect users' medical data. Other goals of the bill include combating abuse and fraud in health care and insurance. HIPAA also aims to improve public access to healthcare and health insurance. Its need has been amplified due to many health data breaches in recent years.

Key Differences between HIPAA and GDPR

HIPAA and GDPR protect the medical data of their subjects, but there are a few differences in how they both go about doing it.

#1 Data Protection

GDPR isn’t primarily covering medical data. GDPR protects the medical and health insurance records of its data subjects. GDPR also considers race, religion, political affiliations, sexual preferences, medical data, insurance data, biometric or genetic data, and any other information that can be used to identify an individual as sensitive data.

HIPAA, on the other hand, was primarily designed to protect and safeguard sensitive medical information. Any health information created or collected by a HIPAA-covered entity that is used to link to a specific person is protected under HIPAA legislation.

#2 Right to Erasure

This right is inclusive to the subjects under GDPR, not HIPAA. Individuals who fall under the jurisdiction of GDPR can have their personal data deleted from the company database and its third-party vendors. This is not granted by HIPAA. Thus, if you are already HIPAA compliant and want to be GDPR compliant, then organizations must comply with this right and provide users a framework for their data deletion.

#3 Privacy Breach Countermeasures

Organizations are bound to protect PHI under HIPAA legislation. But in the event of a data breach, the organization must inform its data subjects regarding the breach. Suppose the number of data subjects affected is more than 500 people. In that case, the organization is liable to address the violation to the affected data subjects and the Department of Health under the US Government within 60 days. GDPR is much stricter in this sense as it requires the breach to be addressed to the supervisory authority within 72 hours of the discovery of the breach.

#4 Consent to Data Sharing

The consent policy of GDPR is not limited to just the medical data of the data subjects. GDPR requires organizations to get prior consent from the data subjects before any acquisition or processing of their personal or sensitive data takes place. On the other hand, HIPAA has no such provisions for taking consent from the data subjects. Instead, HIPAA allows the disclosure of some PHI if they are deemed helpful for the patient’s treatment.

HIPAA makes GDPR compliance easier

If you get HIPAA compliant, then GDPR compliance becomes easier for you. HIPAA compliance ensures that you have methods within your company’s framework for detecting unauthorized PHI (Protected Health Information) changes, and you encrypt PHI both at rest and while in transit.

PHI includes any information or data that can be used to access a patient’s identity, such as an address, name, bank/credit card details, DOB, photos, social security number, medical insurance, and health information.

Become GDPR and HIPAA compliant with Scrut

GDPR and HIPAA are the most challenging data privacy laws and significantly become a burden on organizations when they are non-compliant. But not to worry, Scrut Automations is here to ensure your compliance with both HIPAA and GDPR.

Scrut Automation is an innovative and radically simple Governance, Risk, and Compliance automation platform for growing startups and mid-market enterprises. With Scrut, Compliance teams can reduce ~70% of their manual effort in continuously maintaining compliance towards SOC 2, ISO 27001, GDPR, PCI DSS, and privacy laws like HIPAA, GDPR, and CCPA. Schedule your demo today to see how it works.


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