Tips to Ensure Healthcare Marketing Campaigns are HIPAA Compliant

Searching for health-related information on the Internet is perhaps one of the most popular activities today.  Statistics reported by Pew research data indicates that about 72% of internet users have been found looking for healthcare information online. And in an attempt to keep pace with the changing trends, marketers are inclining more towards digital marketing tactics, making it necessary for their digital campaigns to be crafted in adherence to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

If marketers are not HIPAA-ready yet or are not knowledgable about compliance measures, then it’s high time that they check out these valuable tips to stay on a safer side.

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Sharing Patient Information is a Big No

With the digital intervention, the health care industry has become vulnerable to data breaches, leaks, and unwanted disclosures leading to misuse of patient data and other medical information. In the light of such an alarming situation, HIPAA rules and regulations came into force for protecting patient confidentiality and satisfying the Privacy Rule from getting into wrong hands via digital channels and marketing campaigns. And so to be HIPAA compliant, marketers need to avoid the use of protected health information (PHI) for marketing purpose in a way that can reveal patient’s identity online.

The best way to deal with the ordeal is to either seek for written authorization for the use of data from the patient itself or segment such information by eliminating identifiers such as names, administrative details, geographic and biometric identifiers, etc.

Don’t Use Real Life Patients Images

Being too desperate to win the digital war can land healthcare organizations into trouble. Making their digital presence HIPAA compliant is mandatory on a marketer’s part to avoid being heavily fined. While trying to decorate the healthcare marketing brochure, the landing pages of the website or their brand’s social media profile, marketers should hire actors or use stock photos to portray patients receiving care or being diagnosed rather than referring to real-life patient photos.

Being Ignorant of Minute Details May be Dangerous

Using treatment success stories as examples for marketing purposes is fine only if it does not violate HIPAA rules and places patient data at risk. While narrating the case study or client testimonial as part of marketing, marketers should be careful of what information they are sharing. Even sharing of patient case history and other details via direct messages are considered to be a violation of HIPAA.

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Train Your Marketing Team with HIPAA Regulations

What equally matters in the field is how knowledgeable and well informed the marketing team of a medical organization is about HIPAA rules, regulations and punishment details. The people who are the behind the development of any healthcare email marketing campaign, social media blogs, and content marketing campaigns must be competent enough to pass the compliance challenge for their brand. Also, if the marketing campaign involves third-party vendors, then marketers must ensure that they are HIPAA certified to avoid violation of rules.

On a Healthy Note

Though HIPAA has restricted the marketing efforts of the healthcare industry up to certain limits, still it’s not impossible to develop and deliver effective marketing messages to a targeted audience while being compliant. For example, healthcare organizations can market content on general topics such as healthcare tips, educational documents excluding patient-specific data and much more to make sure that their marketing strategies don’t pose security threats to the electronically stored medical information.

Remember, penalties for noncompliance may incur heavy losses for your healthcare business which may range from a potential fine of $100 to $50,000 per violation depending on the level of negligence.

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Written by:
Sudheer Kiran is a digital marketing consultant & co-founder of the digital marketing agency DigitalVow that offers digital marketing services to small and medium-sized enterprises. He is passionate on covering topics like marketing, startups and entrepreneurship
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