Email marketing and social media are two of the most powerful marketing tools for expanding your audience, building your brand, and in turn, growing your practice. The two strategies are best when you use them in conjunction to increase the reach of your content. Customers need to encounter a brand up to 12 times before making a purchasing decision. Companies that integrate email with social media marketing can achieve that milestone sooner. In the process, they build customer loyalty and generate brand recognition. It's not just about helping your business succeed; evidence indicates that electronic communication with patients can improve their healthcare outcomes. Studies have shown that supplemental electronic communication from physicians makes it more likely for patients with chronic diseases to adhere to recommendations.
How to use social media without violating HIPAAHealthcare providers must be careful about how they use social media in order to avoid violating HIPAA by exposing a patient's protected health information (PHI). There are a number of limitations that covered entities must consider. It is vital to know what you can—and cannot—say on social media in a HIPAA compliant manner. Adhere to the following guidelines when using social media to avoid a HIPAA violation:
- Understand what information constitutes PHI
- Never post any information that can be interpreted PHI
- Do not disclose if a patient received or intends to receive any services
- Do not share or allude to any specific or unique medical cases
- Use broad terms that address “all patients” and avoid addressing individuals or their situations
- Do not diagnose or describe any prognoses, symptoms or courses of treatment publicly
- Use HIPAA compliant email to contact patients (or potential patients) directly—do NOT send messages to patients either privately or publicly via a social media platform
To keep it simple: If a patient can be identified, don’t say it on social media! Thankfully, there is plenty you CAN say online. Here are some HIPAA-friendly types of posts you can integrate into your content:
- Share updates or news about your practice
- Educate the public about popular or timely health topics
- Communicate about COVID-19
- Share health and wellness tips
- Support other local businesses and partners
- Promote events related to your practice
To learn more, visit our extensive blog post on the topic: Social Media & HIPAA Compliance: The Ultimate Guide.
How to use email marketing without violating HIPAA
The HIPAA Privacy Rule regulates how PHI can be used for marketing. In general, HIPAA requires written authorization before a covered entity can use PHI for marketing purposes. However, there are many types of communication that HIPAA does not consider marketing. After all, HIPAA is not intended to restrict providers’ ability to communicate about goods and services that are essential for quality healthcare. Also, HIPAA doesn’t imply that doctors cannot market to clients—simply that in some instances patient authorization is required. Also, remember that all marketing emails, including for healthcare purposes, must abide by the CAN SPAM Act as well. For more information on this topic, see our in-depth article here: HIPAA Definition of Marketing Explained.
The benefits of social media
More and more people around the globe are using social media. With over 2.7 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2020, Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide. Over 90% of Millennials, 77% of Generation X, and 48% of Baby Boomers are active social media users. People spend an average of 3 hours are spent per day on social networks. As social media is becoming more integrated into our daily lives, it unveils countless opportunities for businesses that are looking to reach out to their audience through this channel.
The benefits of email marketing
Email marketing is also a great way to grow your business. The average open rate for healthcare emails is 19.7% with a 2.7% click-through rate, which is above the average for all industries. This goes to show that patients do indeed engage with healthcare emails. Healthcare email marketing can benefit your practice in many ways. We will list some examples below.
Owning your contacts
There is one major difference between your email subscribers and your social media connections—you don’t own your social media audience. You might have thousands of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook, but if you don’t have their email addresses, you could wake up one morning to find that your Facebook business account was deleted. Those people that you worked so hard to find will be gone forever. The best thing to do is to gain control of your social media audience by converting them into email subscribers.
Stay top of mind
The main goal of your medical practice is to keep people healthy, but you also want to maintain patient relationships for when they need you. Engaging with patients via email marketing can make sure that you're their first pick when they need treatment. Although you should not communicate with patients directly on social media, you can leverage a HIPAA compliant email marketing platform such as Paubox Marketing to keep in touch with your patients and stay top of mind.
Build long-lasting relationships
Email marketing is the best digital marketing channel for healthcare providers to build long-lasting relationships because it gives you a direct line of communication with your patients. With Paubox Marketing, you can safely send personalized emails based on someone's interests, medical condition, etc. in a HIPAA compliant manner. Hopefully, you only see your patients a few times a year. When you see them, you build a rapport that makes them feel comfortable. Email lets you extend that trust throughout the year.
How email marketing and social media can work together
Social media marketing is great for reaching new people. Email marketing is an effective way to convert followers into patients. Acquisition strategies often rely on online reviews, advertising, promotions, as well as social media to get new patients. When you get that new patient, you work hard to win their trust and deliver a positive experience, which can be enhanced with an effective email marketing strategy. For ideas on where to get started, check out our post: Healthcare Email Marketing Use Cases. The effect of both email marketing and social media will be amplified if you use them together in a coordinated manner. We provide some ideas below.
Build a stronger, cohesive brand
It is important to maintain brand consistency across all communication platforms. Brand integrity implies that a company is trustworthy and pays attention to detail. This means having everyone on your team involved in marketing communicate with each other to make sure they strike a similar tone on social media and in your email marketing. If you are able to sync up the language, you will build more effective branding.
Include links to your social media pages in your email updates
Your email marketing and social media efforts can work together to grow your subscribers, attract a bigger audience, and increase the exposure of your content. Email marketing can increase engagement on social media by reminding subscribers that your brand has an active social community. Put links to your social media pages in your email updates so that subscribing to your profiles is a one-click decision.
Leverage social media to increase email marketing subscribers
Many of your followers on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter are either current patients or potential patients who want to hear from you. Add a link to a signup landing page on your various profiles so they can start receiving your email updates. PS: Remember that your signup landing page must be HIPAA compliant too! You can also encourage social media followers to sign up for your mailing lists by reminding them what kind of content you share or promotions you offer to inspire them to join. Wondering about what kind of information patients are looking for? Get started here: How to Write an Effective Healthcare Email Newsletter. When people opt-in to your email list, you have a more direct and effective way of communicating with them than on social media—especially if you use Paubox Marketing, which enables you to personalize your emails and include PHI in a HIPAA compliant manner. Also, since they opted in, you are not limited in the types of email marketing you can send to patients, as we explained above.
It’s pretty easy to recycle content between email and social media marketing channels. For example, if you maintain a blog for your practice, you want to make sure your patients know when you post new content. A great way to spread the word is with an email newsletter containing a roundup of recent stories or articles you have published, and you can also share your articles via social media. As another example, if you use a Twitter thread or Facebook book to explain something to your audience, the next time you send an email campaign, link to that explanation instead of writing a new one. Once again, this will nudge subscribers to follow you on social media. The tactic works in the other direction, too. Tell an in-depth story in an email update and recycle it for Twitter or Facebook. If it's too long for a tweet, separate it into multiple tweets, and tell people how they can receive more useful information from you (by joining your email list).
Take advantage of social media email digests
Another idea is joining social media groups that are relevant to your practice and post useful content there. For example, pick a popular group in your medical field on LinkedIn and start participating. If you add useful insight, potential patients might start following your own social media accounts or join your email list.
The most successful brands are able to integrate all branches of their marketing together to create an amazing customer experience. These brands have a holistic view of digital marketing and believe that email and social media work best when they’re used together. Building your email list is never-ending. As you grow your social media presence, keep thinking about new ways to add to your list. This creates a virtuous circle so that as one platform grows, so do the others. Paubox Marketing is the perfect solution for your HIPAA compliant email marketing strategy. It allows you to send personalized email messages that include PHI which arrive directly to the recipient’s email box. Besides using it to grow your social media presence, Paubox Marketing can help you improve patient outcomes, increase patient activation, prevent adverse events, and even protect patients from coronavirus. Simply put, Paubox Marketing is the best HIPAA compliant email marketing solution available.