Platform Dive: Three HIPAA-compliant Alternatives to Google Analytics

By Christy Jones, Director of Marketing & Optimization, Reason One
LinkedIn: Christy Jones
X: @reasononeinc

Hospitals, health systems, and medical practices are increasingly aware that Google Analytics (GA) does not satisfy HIPAA requirements. The reason? The US Department of Health and Human Services released guidance bringing IP addresses under the umbrella of protected health information (PHI). Still, many organizations are proceeding with daily business tasks unchanged, a situation that can feel like you’re on a runaway train with no one at the brake.

Fortunately, the tech industry has been fast in answering the call for greater privacy and security in analytics data. In fact, many viable options exist for HIPAA-compliant analytics platforms – each with pros and cons – at various prices and varying degrees of implementation complexity.

Our team extensively researched alternatives to GA and identified the most promising solutions. We then demoed each platform, arriving at what we consider to be the top three most effective options. The following is a brief overview of the pros and cons of each.

Option one: Extending the GA chord

If you’re not up for completely cutting the GA chord, consider an analytics and customer data platform that lets you still use it – just in a more HIPAA-compliant manner. Some can be configured for event tracking and data collection, then IP Masking and PHI Guard covers anything PHI-related. From there, data can be used in GA, where trackable events can be set up via your existing Google Tag Manager (GTM) account.

These platforms integrate easily with others, enabling ad tracking to be streamlined and HIPAA-compliant data to be forwarded to social media platforms. Implementation can get complex, so look for a platform vendor that offers strong support. Also, be aware that integration with third-party tools may cost extra. On the whole, it’s a very effective approach but still pricier than other options.

Option two: Comprehensive but not costly

You can get a comprehensive HIPAA-compliant analytics platform for nearly half the cost, complete with an embedded tag management module. Robust features include an interface that delivers the same data metrics and reporting you’ll find in GA. A user-friendly approach offers both standard and custom reports and dashboards. Implementation and tag setup are similar to GTM and can work in tandem with an integrated Tag Manager. Further, the platform includes heat mapping and integrates with Looker Studio, Google Search Console, and Google Ads.

On the downside, you’ll have to set up more than a few custom dashboards and reports in order to view the data as you would with standard GA reports. The interface also doesn’t quite measure up to GA or work with existing GTM container tags, so you’ll need to set up tags with the platform’s tag manager.

Option three: Feature-rich and GA free

There are HIPAA-compliant platforms that can entirely replace GA. One includes many of the same features as Option two but has an additional data science layer. This allows marketers to better understand user behavior through capabilities like session playback. For those seeking a more holistic image of how sites are used, add-ons can identify friction points and opportunities for continuous improvement. Journey maps, which visualize actual user flows, can also provide a more holistic view of site usage versus standard moment-in-time analytics.

Setup is more complex than other platforms, and user training is recommended to get the most out of its many features. When it comes to costs, the platform is higher, more in the same range as option one, though tiered solutions may be available based on traffic volume.

Finding what’s best for you

These are just three options of the many GA alternatives out there. Keep in mind numerous drivers can help you identify the solution that’s right for you. When evaluating options, it is essential to consider factors such as an organization’s skill set, team size, reporting needs, and budget. With these in mind, you might find the best answer for your specific needs among the many other platforms on the market. If you need guidance, consider enlisting an agency partner with proven expertise in the area to find a match that’ll work best for you.