Home » Resource Hub » Faq » What Is Healthcare Marketing

As the term implies, healthcare marketing refers to the strategies and activities used to promote and advertise healthcare services, facilities, medical practices, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare products to patients, healthcare professionals, and other stakeholders within the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations and marketers face unique challenges creating print and digital marketing campaigns that marketers in other industry do not; they must be transparent and honest in their marketing efforts to maintain trust and credibility in the industry.

They must adhere to provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), chief among them what are commonly referred to as the “Privacy Rule” and “Security Rule”, when using sensitive patient data or face often severe penalties for violating HIPAA-compliant policies and procedures. Organizations and businesses that handle Protected Health Information (PHI) should have a firm understanding of how HIPAA, and in particular the Privacy Rule and Security Rule, apply to the practices they must adopt to protect that information.

The Privacy Rule covers data transmitted orally or through any form of communication, including print, digital marketing, email, or social media. The Privacy Rule defines the two categories of businesses that handle protected patient data as either ‘Covered Entities’ or ‘Business Associates’.

  • Covered entities include health plans, health clearing houses, and any health care provider who transmits health information such as health, dental, vision, prescription drug insurers, and health maintenance organizations, Medicare and supplement insurers, most long-term care insurers and government, employer-sponsored, church-sponsored, and multi-employer health plans.
  • Business associates are persons, businesses, or organizations that are not employees or representatives of a covered entity, but still carry out services on behalf of the covered entity and are limited to legal, actuarial, accounting, consulting, data collection and analysis, management, marketing, administrative, accreditation, or financial services. HIPAA requires that covered entities have a proper Business Associates Agreement (BAA) in place with every business Associate with which it shares patient data.

The Security Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals' electronic personal health information that is created, received, used, or maintained by a covered entity. The Security Rule requires that before communicating with a patient for marketing purposes as defined under the Rule a signed authorization must be obtained for all uses or disclosures of PHI. The signed authorization must be a stand-alone document and may not be combined with other treatment or therapy consents. It must contain seven core elements that include a description of the PHI to be used, an expiration date, date and signature of the patient or patient’s representative. The authorization also alerts the patient of their rights of revocation, that authorization is not a condition of treatment, and loss of HIPAA data protection in the case of redisclosure by the recipient.

A guiding principle for HIPAA marketing is the Minimum Necessary Standard which covered entities and business associates must adhere to as required by the Privacy Rule. It mandates that covered entities make reasonable efforts to access only the minimum amount of PHI that is needed to achieve the marketing objective. When building out a HIPAA marketing campaign, organizations and businesses must apply a thorough understanding of the Privacy and Security Rules, have confidence that compliant practices and processes are being followed, and respect the confidential information being used to safely optimize every marketing channel. Despite the extra steps an organization must take to avoid violating HIPAA rules, it is possible to grow brand awareness, build relationships, and increase revenue through HIPAA-compliant web sites and print, email, and social media marketing.

« Back to FAQ