Unique Healthcare Marketing Challenges: HIPPA and Technology

Unique Healthcare Marketing Challenges: HIPPA and Technology

Communication and privacy have changed over the last few decades. There is no argument there. As technology grows at a rapid rate, people are trying to make laws, and enforce a level of order to catch up with that growth rate. It is also true in the medical field. When vast improvements in healthcare start to emerge, there are groups of people who try to understand what they are dealing with. Questions about ethics, ability, and cost crop up. And it always will. However, it can be hard for the law and ethics committees to catch up with the speed of the technology growth rate.  Lawmaking and deciding policy rely on slow deliberation, which can lead to a frustrating gap between ability and permission. This is especially true in the case of healthcare marketing.

So, what are some of the obstacles that can present a challenge for healthcare marketing? What do doctors and marketers need to be aware of before they can come up with a marketing strategy? Let’s find out.

What is HIPPA?

So, whenever you talk to someone in healthcare administration or someone that has a job that revolves around the healthcare industry at all, they will tell you one the hardest things to understand and work with are HIPPA Laws. HIPPA is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The main purpose of the law is to protect the privacy and personal information of each patient. This is definitely a good thing. People do have a fundamental right to keep their personal information private. No one should have to feel ashamed or targeted by anyone because of personal information that they disclose in complete and utter confidence.

Where it gets tricky though is that when you add marketing to the mix, there is a chance that there is a risk of, or at at least appearance of a HIPPA violation.  People are not fans of feeling that their personal information has been used behind their back. The Cambridge Analytica election and Facebook data scandal should be proof enough of that.

So, what are some of the common pitfalls that can cause a violation? Is there anything we can do to at least decrease the likelihood of causing a violation?

Common HIPPA Violations

The more common violations of HIPPA Laws can be done by a single person or an entire department. The penalization for these violations often depend on the nature of the privacy or security breach. Depending on the act and severity of this privacy breach, the person or department caught can terminate, fine, or even land the guilty party in jail time.  These can all be rectified or preventable with a little due diligence and understanding from both marketers and healthcare workers. The official HIPPA site explains this better:

·     Snooping on Healthcare Records

Accessing the health records of patients for reasons other than those permitted by the Privacy Rule – treatment, payment, and healthcare operations – is a violation of patient privacy. Snooping on healthcare records of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and celebrities is one of the most common HIPAA violations committed by employees.

·     Failure to Perform an Organization-Wide Risk Analysis

The failure to perform an organization-wide risk analysis is one of the most common HIPAA violations. If the healthcare organization fails to do so, the result is a financial penalty. Risks that are identified must then be subject to a risk management process. They should be prioritized and addressed in a reasonable time frame.

·     Improper Disposal/Attendance around Patient Records

Whether the copy is physical or electronic, there is a chance that people can leave that data unattended. Personal data can get exposed either because it is improperly thrown out or someone just left it unattended for too long.

Ways to Prevent HIPPA Violations with Healthcare Marketing

Do not give your marketing team personal patient data. Ever. As tempting as it is to use it to your advantage, the risk of breaching the trust between you and your patient is too high. Marketing teams can use generalized data from scientific papers available to the public. We can work with generalities and a basic understanding of human behavior/ relationships.

That is the difference between ethical and unethical marketing. We may study data, but we don’t abuse how we attain it. If all healthcare marketing companies utilize this mindset to create new relationships instead of abusing existing ones your practice will see long term success.

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