If you worked in a healthcare facility or opened your medical practice in the last 26 years, then you understand HIPAA as it relates to protecting the confidentiality of patient health information. The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in 1996 with several additions to the law over the years.
While healthcare professionals understand how important it is to keep patient information safe and confidential, what may not be completely clear is how HIPAA laws apply to marketing a medical practice. In this blog, we’ll take a look at what it means to be HIPAA compliant when it comes to communicating and marketing to current and prospective patients.
What is HIPAA marketing?
Before we dive into how to be HIPAA compliant in your marketing efforts to attract new patients or explain a new service your practice offers, you first need to understand what we mean by “HIPAA marketing.”
Let’s start with PHI. Not to be confused with the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet (Φ), PHI as it relates to healthcare is a patient’s protected health information. PHI is important to healthcare marketing because in order to maintain HIPAA compliance, you cannot use PHI in marketing materials—such as emails to patients, digital marketing campaigns, or paid ads—unless you obtain explicit written authorization to do so from the patient.
Patient privacy is key. This means you must not communicate any information in your marketing materials that identifies a patient, including name, address, condition, and many other forms of personal information. In short, HIPAA-compliant marketing means that your orthopedics practice, dental office, urgent care facility, or other covered entity cannot promote a patient success story in a way that identifies the patient (intentionally or unintentionally) unless you have permission from that particular patient.
HIPAA guidelines for healthcare marketing
Fortunately, the regulations do allow for HIPAA marketing, and it provides specific information as it pertains to healthcare marketing to help clear up any confusion. While HIPAA marketing rules seem very straight-forward when it comes to protecting PHI, what may not be as clear is the types of communication that meet the criteria of healthcare marketing.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), healthcare marketing is defined as “a communication about a product or service that encourages recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service.”
Like every rule, exceptions also exist, and the HHS notes three exceptions to HIPAA and marketing that do not require written patient consent as follows:
- You are allowed to let your patient list know about a new health-related product or service your practice offers.
- Regular communication about patient treatment, such as sending an email reminder to refill a prescription, is not considered marketing.
- You can recommend a treatment or provider related to a patient’s specific condition or care.
How to put HIPAA-compliant marketing efforts to work for your practice
It sounds easy, right? Remember not to identify a patient in your marketing materials to other patients, and always get written consent to tell a patient success story on your blog, email, or other patient communication, and you should be HIPAA compliant.
There’s a bit more to it than meets the eye, so consider these tips, as well.
Before sending emails to patients, request authorization.
Do you send out an email newsletter? What about appointment reminder texts or emails? When patients opt in to your text messages and emails, inform them that they will be receiving communications that may be of a marketing nature as it relates to their healthcare at your practice. Request their signature electronically or printed, and allow them to opt out or unsubscribe at any time.
Make sure you have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place.
Are you currently using a service that automates and sends emails to your patient list? You need to make sure you have a signed BAA between this provider and your practice to make sure you’re fully HIPAA compliant. Under HIPAA regulations, even an email provider is considered to be a vendor and business associate of your practice if they are sending emails on your behalf.
Essentially, this vendor receives, transmits, and stores data for each healthcare practice they work with. A BAA safeguards PHI and ensures that both you and your email provider maintain a HIPAA-compliant environment for disseminating sensitive patient information.
SocialClimb’s approach to HIPAA marketing
SocialClimb makes it easy for your practice to maintain HIPAA compliance. We help your practice with a variety of aspects of HIPAA marketing to attract and keep high-value patients. SocialClimb’s healthcare-specific software was designed to deliver industry-leading results with HIPAA-compliant security for patient information.
We offer HIPAA-compliant integrations with practice management systems and with Google, so you never have to worry about the security of PHI. When you automate patient acquisition, our software allows us to safely track your new patients along every step of the patient journey while maintaining HIPAA-compliant standards.
Once you integrate SocialClimb healthcare marketing software with your PM/EHR system, you can safely improve your provider and practice reputations and grow your practice while upholding your commitment to patient privacy and HIPAA standards.
The SocialClimb dashboard lets you respond to patient reviews across all platforms from one location, post to multiple Google Business profiles at the same time, set up ads to target high-value patients, and track your patient acquisition.
SocialClimb software gives you secure access to patient data so you can automatically send out personalized review requests within 24 hours of care. We even offer HIPAA-compliant review responses that you can send to patients who leave the occasional negative review of your practice.
Our HIPAA-compliant platform allows you to identify high-value patients so you can target lookalike audiences with your marketing. You can then use the platform to set up HIPAA-compliant targeted ads easily with all the right keywords so they show up to the right people, protect your brand, and improve your visibility online. With your ideal patients identified, you can employ HIPAA marketing efforts to attract them to your practice and ultimately boost your revenue.
Why do it the hard way, when you already have enough daily tasks to manage at your practice, all while fostering an environment for an exceptional patient experience? SocialClimb allows you to fully automate many daily tasks, such as sending and receiving review requests, surveys, and managing paid ads and social media platforms. When you automate manual tasks, you’re free to focus on patients in the office and other important projects.
Accurate ROI measurement
Our HIPAA-compliant platform gives you an accurate and clear picture of your marketing return on investment (ROI) and patient acquisition costs (PAC). SocialClimb’s Call Tracker lets you see how each patient finds your practice—paid ads, Google Business listings, social media ads, website—so you can see how to adjust your marketing budget for the best response rates.
What’s next for your practice?
Consider the areas of your patient management and marketing efforts that need an upgrade to full HIPAA compliance and automation.
- Do you need a better way to attract high-value patients to your office?
- Do you want to promote a unique service or physician to help new patients understand why they should choose your practice over the one down the street?
- Are you looking for a way to ease the burden of your team’s daily to-do list?
- Do you want full transparency on how your marketing dollars are working?
If you’re ready to improve your HIPAA marketing efforts, let the experts at SocialClimb help you move in the right direction. Give us a call or click below today.