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How to build inclusive HIPAA compliant email marketing campaigns

How to build inclusive HIPAA compliant email marketing campaigns

According to Walden University statistics, Black and Hispanic patients report higher rates of negative healthcare experiences and disparities. This information is only a small part of the bigger picture of non-inclusivity and a lack of diversity in many healthcare organizations. Inclusivity starts with organizations learning and implementing methods of understanding patients in all areas, including communication. 


The need for inclusivity in healthcare

Inclusivity is not an option but a necessity in healthcare as echoed by the 2023 International Journal of Enviromental Reaserach and Public Health article: “...marginalized groups experience poorer mental and physical health outcomes than the general population due to health inequities [2,3,4] largely driven by social determinants of health—the conditions in which people live throughout their lifespan [5]. There is a causal, vicious cycle between disadvantages due to social determinants of health and the poor health outcomes. Poor health status subjects people to additional disadvantages, for example, by limiting their ability to obtain education or engage in work. In turn, those who are disadvantaged often have limited access to healthcare services.” 

When healthcare environments embrace diversity and make sure that all patients, regardless of their background, beliefs, or identity, feel welcomed and understood. This is a practice in cultivating a therapeutic relationship built on trust and empathy. This inclusivity is vital for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment because it encourages open communication

Patients can share information about their health without fear of judgment or discrimination. Inclusive healthcare settings can address and mitigate health disparities by recognizing and adapting to the unique needs of underrepresented or marginalized groups. 


Why HIPAA compliant email marketing should include inclusivity 

According to the American Marketing Association, the ethical values for marketing include: “Values represent the collective understanding of what the community finds appropriate, desirable, and morally acceptable. Values also serve as the criteria for evaluating our own personal actions and the actions of others.

All communications must be accessible and relevant to a diverse patient population. By embedding inclusivity into the organizations protocols and practices, healthcare organizations can create the most effective email content. Content that inherently respects and acknowledges their recipients' unique backgrounds, languages, and health literacy levels. 

This ensures that all patients, regardless of ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic, receive information that is both understandable and meaningful to them. Inclusive email marketing allows customizing messages to cater to different patient groups' specific needs and preferences. It also helps build trust between patients and healthcare providers by demonstrating a commitment to understanding and respecting each patient's individuality.


How to build an inclusive and culturally sensitive HIPAA compliant email marketing campaign

Understand your audience

  • Gather information about the cultural, linguistic, and health literacy diversity of your patients. Use anonymous surveys that respect privacy and HIPAA regulations.
  • Analyze patient demographics and preferences, focusing on insights without accessing PHI directly.

Provide language and content accessibility

  • Provide email content in multiple languages relevant to your patient population, ensuring all patients can access information in their preferred language.
  • Craft your messages using plain language principles to accommodate varying health literacy levels, making content easy to understand for everyone.

Respect cultural differences

  • Create content that is culturally sensitive, avoiding stereotypes and ensuring materials are respectful and relevant to diverse groups.
  • Include content that acknowledges and celebrates cultural events, holidays, and health awareness dates pertinent to the diverse groups within your audience.

Secure consent ethically

  • Clearly explain what patients are signing up for in their language, ensuring they understand they're consenting to receive email communications.
  • Design your consent forms and processes with privacy and inclusivity in mind, making it easy for patients of all backgrounds to understand how their information will be used and protected.

Choose the right tools

See also: Top 12 HIPAA compliant email services



How often should I update my team's training on HIPAA and cultural competency?

Conduct training sessions at least annually or when significant changes to HIPAA regulations or your patient demographic makeup exist. Regular refreshers can also help maintain awareness and compliance.


Can I use patient testimonials in my email marketing, and how does this align with HIPAA compliance?

Patient testimonials can be used but require explicit, written consent from the patients involved, especially if any PHI is to be disclosed. 


How can I ensure the images and media I use in emails are inclusive?

Choose images and media that reflect a variety of races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, and other characteristics. Consider using stock photo services specializing in diverse and inclusive imagery or creating custom graphics that accurately represent your patient population.

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