Best Practices for HIPAA Compliant Digital Marketing (3 Tips)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a US federal law that establishes national standards for protecting sensitive patient health information. Any business that handles this data type must comply with it. This includes healthcare digital marketing agencies developing marketing campaigns or medical practice materials.
This blog post explains five important HIPAA-compliant policies you should follow for your online marketing:
- Understand the basics of HIPAA.
- Train all employees on HIPAA compliance.
- Create a policy for handling personal health information (PHI).
- Limit access to PHI to only those who need it.
- Follow the E-A-T guidelines.
Avoid legal troubles that can ruin your digital marketing efforts and brand. Read to know how to execute these ideas.
Are you looking for help with marketing your healthcare business? Watch the video below to learn our approach to healthcare marketing and why 150+ healthcare companies have chosen Digital Authority Partners to help them generate more leads and patient appointments.
5 Healthcare Digital Marketing Tips To Stay HIPAA Compliant
Marketing health services online is complex and risky. You can face legal issues if you don't adhere to certain laws that protect the industry and its stakeholders, such as patients. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific guidelines for designing and promoting a healthcare app.
But perhaps the number one healthcare regulation to know is HIPAA. What is it, and how do you implement a comprehensive digital marketing plan while following its rules?
We share five tips:
1. Understand the Basics of HIPAA
HIPAA is a US law that regulates how healthcare providers, insurers, and other entities collect, store, use, and share patient information.
It has the following salient features:
- Patient permission. Patients should provide written consent to share their health data with any third party.
- Data security. It emphasizes strict data security provisions to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access. Covered entities must have physical, technical, and administrative safeguards in place to protect patient data.
- Limited data sharing. Patients only share their information with those who need it for business purposes. Businesses that receive such information from patients cannot sell or use it for commercial gain without the patient’s consent.
Three categories of people must comply with HIPAA:
- Covered entities are health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare providers who transmit health information electronically.
- Business associates are people or organizations that work with covered entities to help them carry out their healthcare functions. These include claims processors, cloud service providers, and data analysts.
- Subcontractors are business associates' subcontractors. They also have to comply with HIPAA.
All of these basic pieces of information will then influence the other four tips on this list.
2. Create a Policy for Handling Personal Health Information (PHI)
A PHI policy is a set of guidelines your organization must follow when handling patient data, especially when you plan to incorporate them into hospital digital marketing tactics.
It should include the following:
- Types of information you will collect and store. Is it just basic contact information, or will you also collect health records? What data do you need for digital marketing (e.g., photos, names, procedures, or stories)? Are they anonymous or de-identified?
- How you will collect, store, and use this information. Will you collect it through paper or online forms or phone calls? How will you store it (e.g., in a password-protected file)? Who can access it? How often will you use it? Will you get consent before collecting PHI? Or are patients just going to tick a yes box on your page, website, or app?
- Data security measures. What technical, physical, and administrative safeguards will you put in place to protect patient data? These might include encryption, firewalls, and access controls.
- Third-party access. Will you share patient data with any third party? If so, what type of information will you share? How will you ensure that they also have adequate security measures in place?
Your organization must take all reasonable steps to secure PHI. Furthermore, policies should undergo regular review, preferably once a year.
3. Train All Digital Marketing Employees on HIPAA Compliance
Digital marketers are not immune to HIPAA compliance or the consequences of disobeying the law. After all, they are more likely to engage with sensitive information in the following ways:
- Collecting PHI through online forms, such as contact or subscription forms
- Contracting with third-party vendors, such as social media platforms, website hosts, and email service providers
- Accessing or developing healthcare apps
Many organizations offer free or affordable HIPAA training. Getting them onboard is necessary to help your employees understand the complexities of the law. However, your digital marketing team also requires workshops on internal policies, best practices, and data security measures.
4. Limit PHI Access To Only Those Who Need It
As a covered entity, you must implement technical safeguards to protect patient data from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure. These include:
- Authentication controls. Only allow authorized individuals to access patient information. Digital marketers, for example, should only be able to use the data they need to do their job, which should not contain personally identifiable information.
- Data recovery. Ensure that you can quickly and easily retrieve data in the event of an emergency, such as a system crash or power outage. Steps include creating backups, storing data in multiple locations, and using secure cloud-based storage solutions.
- Access controls. Set different levels of access for employees, contractors, and business associates.
- Activity logs. Track user activity to identify and prevent potential data breaches. These logs can help you determine who accessed PHI and when and what type of information was accessed or altered.
- Data encryption. Encrypt all patient data, both in transit and at rest. Make it unreadable if it falls into the wrong hands.
5. Follow the E-A-T Guidelines
The growing popularity of Dr. Google and self-diagnosis has prompted the search engine to establish standards for healthcare-related websites and promotions. These include the E-A-T guidelines for "your money, your life" (YMYL) pages.
The guide focuses on three crucial attributes of medical websites:
- Expertise. How knowledgeable are you about your niche? Do you possess adequate education, training, and experience to provide advice or guidance?
- Authoritativeness. Can users trust you and your content? Are you credible, reliable, and accurate? Do you have any third-party endorsements?
- Trustworthiness. How safe is it to use your site or product? Do you have a good reputation? Are you truthful and transparent about your policies?
You can apply all these factors to your medical digital marketing plan through the following:
- Quality content. Write blog posts, landing pages, and social media updates that accurately reflect your expertise. Have a person with a sufficient medical degree or healthcare expertise double-check the data. Update the copy regularly, especially if new healthcare laws can affect it.
- Citations and references. Use reputable sources to back up your claims. When possible, link to these sources or include them in a footnote or endnote.
- Claims. Verify claims, statistics, or recommendations in your medical marketing strategies. Never make false or misleading claims about your products or services. It can result in legal actions from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or state attorneys general. Ask a healthcare professional for help if you're unsure about something.
Adhering to the E-A-T guidelines can be difficult, but it makes you less exposed to HIPAA noncompliance.
A HIPAA-compliant digital marketing plan is essential for any healthcare organization that wants to stay competitive and avoid costly penalties. Following the tips above helps you create campaigns that adhere to the law while still providing value to your patients.
We strongly recommend working with a healthcare digital marketing team for advanced strategies that positively impact your revenue and customer retention.
Ensuring compliance with HIPAA and other medical laws, Digital Authority Partners (DAP) has helped countless healthcare providers improve their online presence and reach new patients. Reach out to DAP today to see how we can help you!
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