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We often say that’s the way the cookie crumbles when we must accept things just as they are. The same can be said for the coming change in collecting users’ data on the Internet—Google is about to remove third-party cookies from the Chrome browser in 2025. It’s not unexpected since there has been a big frenzy about online privacy and many data breaches in recent years.

This will inevitably affect healthcare marketing, where patient data plays a key role, and its protection is a neverending duty. But even though the jar of third-party cookies will soon be sealed forever, leaning on first-party cookies can save the day. This shift isn’t just some fancy tech change—it’s about setting your online presence to be more open, fair, and secure for patients interacting with you.

Think of it like making sure all the private stuff patients share with you stays safe and sound. So, let’s see what first-party cookies are and how they can improve your website while keeping everything up with privacy rules.

What are First-Party Cookies? 

First-party cookies are small data files that a website you visit sends to your device. They remember your settings and preferences, making your visits more personalized and efficient. Unlike third-party cookies, which are set by domains other than the one you’re visiting, first-party cookies enhance direct interaction with the website.

For example, when patients visit your site, a first-party cookie remembers their login info, sparing them from repeating their entries. This makes visits more convenient and relevant to the patient’s preferences. Also, it tracks their site interactions, from visited pages to navigation patterns. Streamlining this journey helps patients quickly access the information they need.

In a sector with challenging privacy demands like healthcare, first-party cookies are a practical way to collect essential data while complying with the rules. Since you manage them, it’s easier to keep track of and protect patients’ data. It may not be as fun as making real cookies, but your healthcare practice needs to keep high standards of care by adapting to the latest digital changes.

The Big Shift

For ages, third-party cookies have been a must in digital marketing. They’ve been used to track users across different websites to gather rich data on their online behavior and choices. However, growing concerns over privacy and data protection have changed everything—users are becoming wary of being tracked across the web, and regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have put a layer of strict control on how data can be collected and used. That was the beginning of the decline of third-party cookies.

On the other side, first-party cookies are set by the website you’re on, making them more privacy-friendly. They collect data directly from your interaction with the site, providing insights without crossing privacy boundaries. This direct relationship between the website and the user builds trust, crucial in healthcare, where extra attention is always on keeping information private and secure. Moving from third-party to first-party cookies is a more necessary switch than a choice.

The impact of this shift on healthcare is twofold. First, healthcare providers must reshape their digital strategies to ensure compliance with privacy regulations and more secure patient engagement. Second, it offers an opportunity to enhance the patient experience by using data that is more accurate and relevant, collected in a way that respects the user’s privacy.

Healthcare providers must be careful with this new change to first-party cookies. They need to understand online privacy, patient engagement, and data handling. It’s about balancing leveraging data to improve services and respecting patients’ privacy. To turn this walk-on-eggshells into an optimized patient online experience, several strategic steps come in quite handy.

A Basket Full of Cookies: How to Use First-Party Cookies in Healthcare Efficiently

Integrating first-party cookies into your digital strategies allows you to create a more engaging, efficient, and personalized online experience for your patients. This enhances patient satisfaction and improves overall outcomes by building an informed and engaged patient base.

Due to privacy restraints, it’s important to get a clear “yes” from your website visitors before using cookies. Explain why you’re using cookies and double-check that everything you do is compliant with privacy laws and regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and relevant state privacy measures.

Display Personalized and Patient-Friendly Content

It’s important to know what your patients look for on your website. First-party cookies can help you track the services or doctors your patients are curious about each time they make an online visit. Then, you can use this data to curate a personalized experience for them the next time they visit.

Also, if they’ve checked out any health tips or videos before, remember those choices. This way, you can recommend other helpful content they might like, making it easier for them to discover more useful healthcare information.

Enhance Patient Experience

When your website remembers the vital details, it makes your patients happy and your online efforts smoother. 

For example, your website can use first-party cookies to personalize the user experience by remembering their preferences, such as displaying their previously viewed services or articles when they return, which could include personalized health tips based on their interests. 

First-party cookies also significantly contribute to your website’s accessibility. You can keep your site’s settings just right every time visitors come back, especially for those needing bigger text or different colors to read better. This makes your site friendlier for everyone, especially those with special demands.

Optimize Online Scheduling with First-Party Cookies

Scheduling appointments can be a headache for both patients and doctors. Using first-party cookies to remember patient details like names and contacts on your online forms can make that a lot easier. Patients can easily book their next appointments without re-entering their info.

Plus, this helps reduce appointment no-shows and waiting issues, keeping everything smooth and hassle-free for you and your patients.

Track and Analyze Important Data

Leveraging first-party cookies to monitor visitor interactions on your site can provide valuable insights into their engagement with specific features, particularly how they navigate the appointment booking process.

Tracking key actions, like successfully booked appointments, will give you a clear picture of how well your site converts visitors into patients. This can show you what’s working well and which segments of your page might need a boost to encourage more appointment bookings.

Speed Things Up A Bit

Remembering your website visitors with the help of first-party cookies can significantly speed up your site. When they return, your site can load faster because the browser “remembers” it from their last visit. This makes browsing your site smoother and more enjoyable for potential patients.

Also, even though cookies aren’t a ranking factor, their use can indirectly influence your SEO efforts. First-party cookies can positively impact user experience, site speed, and content accessibility and help you further optimize your site’s performance in search engine results.

Managing Cookie Data in a HIPAA-Compliant Way

Let’s get back to the rules. In the context of first-party cookies, HIPAA compliance revolves around safeguarding Protected Health Information (PHI). When using cookies, it’s important to distinguish between non-identifiable user data, which can enhance user experience, and PHI, which must be handled with diligent care. First-party cookies can help by focusing on data from your site, lowering the chance of accidentally sharing private details with others.

It is important to encrypt any PHI you collect and ensure its safe storage. This includes using strong security measures to protect data both when it’s being sent and when it’s just stored. Also, only the people who need to see this data should be able to do so.

Regularly checking how cookies are used, the data they collect, and how they’re looked after helps you stay HIPAA compliant. By focusing on privacy and security at every step, you can offer personalized online experiences without risking patient data breaches.

Can You Still Use Third-Party Tools on Your Website Without Collecting Third-Party Cookies?

Digital tools, like live chat, website analytics, and social media connections, heavily rely on third-party cookies. These cookies are key to modern healthcare sites, making them more user-friendly and efficient. Blocking these cookies would be a massive blow to online engagement and overall practice performance.

The good news is, yes, you can still use most of these tools. But you need to know how to integrate them, and it’s always favorable for healthcare entities to choose tools that are either HIPAA-compliant or agree to sign a BAA. Many providers now offer their services with a higher regard to data privacy laws and regulations, either by cutting down on third-party cookies or not using them at all. Healthcare sites can still benefit from these tools, like getting insights from analytics or offering quick help through live chat without stepping over privacy lines.

For example, instead of allowing analytics tools to track visitors all over the internet, they can be set up to use only first-party cookies, keeping all patients’ data within the bounds of your site. Live chat and support can work the same way, giving personalized help without diving into private information. And for social media, simple links to share content can replace those tracking-heavy widgets, keeping engagement up without compromising privacy. This is quite important since social media platforms usually aren’t HIPAA-compliant.

Be clear with your website visitors. Tell them about the tools you use, what data you gather, and how you use it. Ensure any third-party tools you bring into your site comply with privacy laws and check their policies and security measures to keep your patients’ data safe.

Can You Have Your Cookies And Eat Them Too?

You’ll always have to adjust your digital presence to the changes in the online world. As we said, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Giving up third-party cookies is one of these evolutionary steps that must be taken for the better patient experience and practice’s sake. Still, first-party cookies offer a variety of advantages that can help you run your website smoothly, improve user experience, and personalize interactions without relying on third-party cookies or breaching privacy regulations. 

The challenge that remains—and persists in healthcare even regardless of third-party cookies—is compliant tracking and analysis of your healthcare marketing strategy. Making a distance from HIPAA-non-compliant tracking and analytics tools and third-party cookies can make data-driven marketing for healthcare sound demanding and complicated, even almost impossible.

Fortunately, marketing tools built specifically for healthcare, such as SocialClimb’s comprehensive HIPAA-compliant marketing platform can help you address this issue, collect marketing data, and analyze the success of your campaigns without the risk of breaching data privacy rules and regulations. 

Embrace the future of digital marketing in healthcare by supporting your efforts with an array of tools that can help you create personalized campaigns, reach the right audience for each service line, understand the patients’ behavior, track KPIs such as ROI and PAC, and make data-informed marketing decisions to drive growth and profit. And when it comes to your website—use first-party cookies to ensure a better user experience, and stop worrying about vanity metrics: you can still track everything you need while keeping patient data secure and private.

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