HIPAA and Healthcare Marketing with HubSpot

5 min read
4-Feb-2021 3:22:00 PM

Disclaimer: This is a friendly reminder that because we are not attorneys, we cannot offer legal advice. This information should not be interpreted as legal advice, and you should consult your own legal counsel for compliance issues related to your industry, state, and municipality. Regulations change regularly, and it is important that you maintain HIPAA compliance, as well as compliance with all relevant data privacy and data protection regulations. 

At ThinkFuel, we frequently discuss ways medical providers can effectively market themselves to new patients. We work with many different providers, from plastic surgeons and vein clinicians to chiropractors and podiatrists, women’s health clinics, medical device providers, and more. In our experience, facilities like yours need a good inbound marketing strategy to keep growing as businesses.

Of course, your primary focus is to provide excellent medical care to your patients. We know that, and you know that, too! However, providing medical care to people who aren’t walking through your doors is hard. That’s why you and many others have decided to go the extra mile and improve your inbound marketing strategies.

You probably know that HubSpot is an invaluable tool for inbound and B2B marketing. After all, professionals across a wide range of industries use it effectively. HubSpot provides sales, marketing, and customer service tools that can be scaled up or down depending on each client’s needs — plus, it’s now HIPAA-compliant. HubSpot’s recent announcement of HIPAA support and new sensitive data tools further strengthens its position as an invaluable tool for inbound and B2B marketing in the healthcare industry.

Are you aware of the unique marketing challenges that medical providers face due to state and federal healthcare information regulations? If you’re using HubSpot to market your services, you need to be aware of some specific information that affects what you can and can’t do.

Table of Contents

What does HIPAA have to do with marketing, anyway?
How can you abide by HIPAA and market to leads?
How does HubSpot help with this?

What does HIPAA have to do with marketing, anyway?

As you already know, HIPAA protects patients’ personal information, including their diagnoses, treatments, medications, appointments, concerns, and more. Federal regulations govern this protected health information (PHI); you don't want to risk paying hefty fines if you break them. You could take a major financial hit even if the violation is an accident.

HIPAA compliance means using patient data only legally. This includes storing, transferring, accessing, and using any information that patients provide or that medical providers document in their files.

You can abide by HIPAA privacy rules at the same time that you perform essential marketing and sales tasks. This requires you to combine different digital platforms in a HIPAA-compliant way.

How can you abide by HIPAA and market to leads? 

Healthcare providers often use a combination of digital platforms to communicate with patients and prospective patients. Think about how many platforms you are probably already using:

  • An electronic medical records (EMR) system
  • Marketing tools and apps
  • Email subscription databases
  • A patient portal
  • Social media platforms and apps

One of the best ways to ensure that your marketing never uses HIPAA-protected information inappropriately is to avoid all “cross-contamination.” Essentially, you must differentiate between apps, accounts, and platforms that access protected patient information and those used for marketing.

Yes, this will result in some duplication of information in a few different places, but it will keep federally protected information from ever being used in a marketing campaign. You can’t get in trouble for inappropriately using patient information for marketing if you ensure that the protected information is never used for marketing purposes, right?

How does HubSpot help with this? 

Because HubSpot is a global leader in marketing, its features are complex and inventive. You’re not the first medical provider to improve your healthcare marketing through its services. When you work with HubSpot or choose a marketing agency that works with HubSpot, you reap the benefits of years of troubleshooting, problem-solving, software development, and more.

HubSpot’s recent announcement of HIPAA support and new sensitive data tools further enhances its utility for healthcare marketing. Let's look at three of the most effective ways to use HubSpot to prevent HIPAA violations:

1. Create Different Lists That Access Different Kinds of Information

When you create custom properties with drop-down forms for your website, you get to control what information is collected from the visitor. Limiting those drop-down fields to omit any HIPAA-related information means that you are creating a contact database, not a patient database, with that provided information.

Here’s an example: if you ask for someone’s name, email address, and phone number, that information can be added to a marketing database. However, if you ask them to share their symptoms or medications, you risk violating HIPAA regulations. Once they become patients, transfer the information from “contact” to “patient” and ensure that any information about their health is entered through your EMR or patient portal rather than through your website.

Update your database regularly to ensure you follow best practices for storing and editing information. You can delete unnecessary information from your contact accounts and even remove contacts altogether once they become patients. We also recommend a one-way integration: don’t send information from your EMR to HubSpot. Instead, only send information from HubSpot to the EMR.

2. You can utilize opt-in strategies.

Ask people to opt-in to what they want! When an individual fills out a form on your website, you can obtain their consent to use their information in several different ways.

For example, you could give them a chance to opt-in to marketing emails. (You probably won’t call these “marketing emails,” of course! Use language like “I would like to receive emails about special offers and promotions” or “I want to receive information about health and wellness.”)

HubSpot will allow you to differentiate between leads who want to receive marketing information and those who don’t. The communication recipients will have opted in to whatever information you send.

3. Be smart with your marketing emails.

A final piece of advice is to avoid using HubSpot’s personalization tokens in any emails that you send. You don’t want to use people’s protected information to market a product or service to them.
Use general language, which may look something like this:

  • We want to tell you about one of our most popular services!
  • Are you interested in learning more about...?
  • Have you heard about our new service?

Importantly, you should never refer to a patient’s treatment or medical history in your email marketing. Of course, if you follow the advice from earlier in this article and keep patient and marketing information separate, that won’t be a problem!

HubSpot’s new sensitive data management tools include field-level permissions and partitioning, ensuring only authorized users access sensitive information. Application layer encryption using unique encryption keys for each customer, comprehensive audit logging, advanced authentication features, inactive session timeouts, and proactive security recommendations further ensure the security and compliance of your data management practices. These features help healthcare organizations manage patient data responsibly while enhancing their marketing and sales operations.

Are You Ready to Learn More About How Digital Marketing Can Grow Your Practice with HubSpot’s New HIPAA-Compliant Features? ThinkFuel Can Help! Let’s Talk. We’re Ready to Get Started! Are You?

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