Marketing is an important part of any business, but it can be overwhelming to figure out how to market your business. There are so many different ways you can promote your practice, but what makes the most sense for healthcare? As a healthcare practice, you most likely won’t take out a billboard to market your services, but you might advertise on social media. Something else that’s important to consider with healthcare business marketing strategy is how HIPAA factors in.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), controls what and when patient information may be shared for marketing purposes. With the way that technology has changed since HIPAA was enacted, however, it can be challenging to find information regarding appropriate marketing practices using modern technologies.

HIPAA and Marketing

HIPAA has specific rules regarding the use and disclosure of patient protected health information (PHI). As a result, healthcare business marketing efforts must adhere to HIPAA marketing standards and ensure patient PHI is being used only when a patient specifically authorizes you to use their information for marketing.

Authorization for use and disclosure of PHI is a key component of any effective HIPAA compliance program. Any time PHI is used or disclosed for reasons other than treatment, payment, or healthcare operations, the patient must sign a consent form that outlines how their PHI will be used. Patients also have the right to revoke their authorization at any time.

If you are working with a marketing agency and sharing patient information with them, the patient must give explicit consent for you to do so. 

HIPAA Marketing Fines

There were several HIPAA fines for the improper use or disclosure of PHI in relation to marketing in 2022. 

In one instance, a dental practice disclosed its patients’ PHI to a campaign manager, and a third-party marketing company hired to help with a state senate election campaign. As a result, the practice was fined $62,500 for the incident. In another incident, a healthcare practice disclosed a patient’s information in response to a negative online review. This practice was fined $50,000.

In 2022, HHS issued a  press release discussing a fine for improper response to an online review, OCR Director, Melanie Fontes Rainer, stated, “This latest enforcement action demonstrates the importance of following the law even when you are using social media.  Providers cannot disclose protected health information of their patients when responding to negative online reviews. This is a clear NO. OCR is sending a clear message to regulated entities that they must appropriately safeguard patients’ protected health information. We take complaints about potential HIPAA violations seriously, no matter how large or small the organization.”

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How to Market Your Healthcare Business

It’s clear from past marketing fines that most healthcare businesses are unclear on what HIPAA does and does not permit for marketing. So how can you market your healthcare business without facing a fine?

Before you can use patient information for marketing efforts, you need to receive explicit written consent from the patient. The consent form must expressly state what marketing efforts their PHI will be used in. For instance, if you would like to share patient testimonials, photos, or videos on your website or social media accounts, the patient must sign a consent form stating that they consent to you using their information in this manner. If later, you want to use the same patient’s information in a different way, they would need to sign a new consent form.

Marketing Ideas for Healthcare Businesses

Now that you know the basics of HIPAA and marketing. The following are some marketing ideas for healthcare businesses to attract new patients, and retain existing ones.

  1. Build a Responsive Website
  2. Testimonials on Website and Social Media
  3. Ask for Reviews
  4. Sharing Health Tips
  5. Ads and Video
  6. Build Relationships with Other Providers
  7. Community Involvement

Build a Responsive Website

Having a website has become a standard for any business. This is also the case in healthcare. Building a responsive website will give your healthcare business legitimacy while allowing prospective patients to research your practice. At a minimum, your website should have a homepage, an about us section, contact information, and business hours. You can also use your website to display your services, post patient testimonials, and allow patients to self-schedule appointments.

Testimonials on Website and Social Media

Using testimonials on your website and social media is a good way to set yourself apart from other providers. Showing a “success case” provides a real-world example of how you have helped a patient overcome a problem, allowing prospective patients to put themselves in their shoes. Just remember, before sharing patient testimonials, you must obtain explicit consent prior.

Ask for Reviews

Patients have become increasingly dependent on Google when looking for new doctors. Doctors that have no reviews may be a red flag, while doctors with poor reviews are not likely to get inquiries about new patients. It’s a good idea to ask patients for reviews after an appointment. Be careful how you solicit reviews, however. For instance, if a patient has not consented to receive email communications, don’t email them asking for reviews. If, the patient has consented to receive emails, make sure to follow HIPAA compliant email rules.

Sharing Health Tips

Sharing health tips through your website and social media platforms is a good way to engage patients, and be seen as a thought leader. Health tips should be general (don’t talk about a specific patient here), such as, “Make sure you’re properly hydrated,” and then provide information on what this means. You can also easily reshare articles on social media, and provide your advice on the topic.

Ads and Video

If you have a marketing budget, ads and videos are good ways to increase your exposure. When developing these, it is important to keep your target audience in mind (i.e., tailor these to your patients). Use language prospective patients will understand, and keep things simple. Ads should be set up to target certain demographics based on things such as location, age, and gender (*existing patient information should never be uploaded into ad platforms). 

Consumers are also increasingly favoring video content. Videos can be more engaging than written promotional content and allow potential patients to get the information they are looking for quickly and easily.

Build Relationships with Other Providers

Referrals are highly underrated. Patients often look to their existing treating providers for recommendations on other types of doctors. For instance, a patient may ask their general practitioner for a recommendation on a specialist, such as a dermatologist. Since general practitioners are not qualified to treat most dermatological issues, they will refer this service out. To establish a referral relationship, it is important to network. You should have referral relationships with several doctors, it’s a win-win for both parties!

Community Involvement 

Community involvement is especially important for doctors practicing in smaller communities, but it can also have an impact in larger cities. Patients and prospective patients value businesses that give back to their communities. Whether you volunteer at a local charity, donate to a good cause, or provide free treatment to underserved communities, patients will be more likely to choose your practice over another practice when you show that you care. Your charitable endeavors should be shared on your website, and social media accounts for maximum impact.

Marketing Your HIPAA Compliance with the Seal of Compliance

You wouldn’t think that patients are aware of HIPAA, but it has been a hot topic ever since the pandemic. While patients don’t necessarily understand what HIPAA is and who it applies to, they know of its existence and the important role it plays in information privacy.

Compliancy Group’s HIPAA Seal of Compliance is awarded to clients that implement a compliance program using its automated software solution. The Seal is an excellent healthcare business marketing tool as it differentiates your practice while representing your dedication to keeping patient information secure. The Seal of Compliance can be displayed on your website, in your email signature, and in your office.

“The Seal of Compliance on our website has been a great sales tool for us. It’s the perfect differentiator when new customers are deciding between working with us and another software provider,” Adam Zachs, Legal and Compliance Officer.

Are you a vendor looking for help marketing to the healthcare sector? We can help you market your HIPAA compliance with our exclusive Business Associate Marketing Kit. Contact us today to find out more!

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