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Marketing & HIPAA Compliance

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In this guest blog post, Reciprocity Labs provides some tips for how U.S.-based physicians can safely market their practices within HIPAA guidelines.

Navigating HIPPA Compliance In Your Marketing Campaigns

The popularity of the internet has made it possible for people to gain access to health-related information online. HIPPA regulations are now more than ever crucial to health practitioners who wish to exploit the internet to market their brand. U.S. practitioners must familiarize themselves with HIPPA compliance rules and identify ways to navigate these regulations in their marketing campaigns. A marketing campaign that adheres to the HIPPA regulations should secure patient data, and manage marketing authorizations from patients. Here are some of the tips that U.S. practitioners can use to adopt HIPPA compliant marketing campaigns.

1. Be Cautious With PHI Email Marketing Campaigns

Email is one of the most popular means of receiving brand communication. In the U.S., nine out of ten internet users depend on email to receive brand communications. Protected Health Information (PHI) is anything that identifies a person and provides data about their healthcare. Therefore, if you send an email that someone can use to figure out their medical information, it is PHI. You need to be careful that your PHI email marketing campaigns do not violate HIPPA regulations.

To ensure your marketing campaigns are HIPPA compliant, you need to make the following considerations:

  • Get authorization to send marketing messages to patients. You can get approval by using an opt-in form on your website
  • Sign a Business Associate Agreement with a third-party marketing vendor
  • Safeguarding data stored with the third-party marketing vendor
  • Sending HIPAA compliant email

With these considerations in mind, you can make a killing with your email market campaigns through segmentation and personalization and automated drip emails. Segmentation and personalization help you send targeted messages. To achieve this, you need to break your list of patients into segments. Your patient list can be segmented based on how long a person has been a patient, the patient’s last visit, and the kind of treatment received. You can then proceed to send emails about specific information like new treatments, post-operation instructions, and other news that target particular patients.

Drip email marketing involves sending a series of emails automatically. These emails allow you to follow up on treatment and ensure any specific instructions are sent after patient visits. Drip emails also remind patients about follow up appointments. Drip emails have been reported to increase the revenue of many health care providers.

2. Use Paid Social Media Marketing Campaigns Wisely

Healthcare providers can exploit social media marketing through retargeting and custom audiences. However, certain risks should be avoided. Retargeting is fine if it is for the general audience that does not include your patients. However, if someone is identified as your patient, you need their authorization to market to them.

One of the ways of excluding people from your retargeting campaign is by having a patient portal for patients only. However, since the use of patient portals is low, an alternative way is to have an acceptance pop-up cookie on your website. This will help you retarget specific visitors and; therefore, you would not use the Facebook pixel for persons who reject your cookie policy.

A custom audience is where Facebook generates a Facebook audience for you based on a list of names that you upload on its platform. This is dangerous for HIPPA compliance since Facebook will not sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). A BAA is an agreement between a HIPAA covered entity (any organization delivering a product) and a HIPAA business associate (an organization working with the HIPAA covered entity) that stores, transmits, or processes, patient health information. Facebook does not sign BAAs and; therefore, using patient lists to create a custom audience on Facebook is a violation of HIPPA regulations. Therefore, you should avoid using patient lists to create a custom audience. Instead, use filters to narrow down your audience in terms of age, occupation, interests, location, and other premises.

3. Be Conservative With What You Share

When designing marketing brochures, social media profiles, or landing pages for your website, desist from using real-life patient images. It is advisable to use stock photos if you want to portray patients receiving care or receiving a diagnosis instead of using real-life patient photos. Additionally, you should not use patient success stories for marketing purposes if it puts patient data at risk. When narrating client testimonials or a case study, you should be careful with the kind of information you are sharing. Be wary that sharing a patient’s case history and other pertinent information through direct messages amounts to a HIPAA violation.

If your marketing campaign is conducted in-house, then it is crucial to educate your staff on HIPAA rules and regulations. You also need to share with them punishment details to ensure they know the consequences of their actions. Those who are charged with developing marketing campaigns need to be keen enough to ensure compliance for their brand. If third-party vendors conduct the marketing campaign, make sure they are HIPAA certified.

Summing It Up

Although HIPAA has restricted marketing in the healthcare industry, there are several ways to navigate HIPAA compliance and still design a robust marketing strategy. This includes making content on general topics and seeking client authorization before engaging in email or social media marketing campaigns. The above ways are some tips on how to market yourself in the healthcare industry while still remaining HIPAA compliant effectively.

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