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The 3 main steps in healthcare email marketing

The 3 main steps in healthcare email marketing

HIPAA applies to email marketing in healthcare to protect patients' privacy and the security of their protected health information (PHI). It ensures that patient data is not improperly disclosed or used for marketing without explicit consent. The three steps for HIPAA compliance are: 

  1. Obtaining patient consent for marketing emails
  2. Using a HIPAA compliant email service
  3. Limiting PHI use in emails to what's necessary


1. Obtain explicit patient consent

HIPAA compliant email marketing mandates explicit consent from patients. This step is required by law. Patients must willingly opt in to receive marketing communications. 

There are a few methods for achieving this:

  1. Opt-in checkboxes: Incorporate opt-in checkboxes on your website, patient forms, or registration materials. These checkboxes should clearly and concisely state the purpose of email marketing and allow patients to subscribe voluntarily. 
  2. Consent emails: Alternatively, you can send patients a separate email requesting their consent to receive marketing communications. This email should provide a straightforward mechanism for patients to opt in. Make the consent email clear, informative, and easy to act upon. Include a prominent "Yes, I consent" button to simplify the opt-in process.

Remember to maintain detailed records of patient consent, including the method used and the date on which consent was obtained. These records serve as documentation to demonstrate compliance with HIPAA regulations. 

Related: Understanding opt-in and HIPAA compliant email marketing


2. Use a HIPAA compliant email marketing service

HIPAA compliance extends beyond consent and into the tools and services you use. Select a HIPAA compliant email marketing service provider to safeguard the security and confidentiality of patient information:

  1. Understand the importance of HIPAA compliance: Standard email marketing providers often lack the necessary security measures to protect PHI. Emphasize the potential risks of non-compliant services, which may result in breaches and regulatory penalties.
  2. Selecting a compliant provider: Look for a HIPAA compliant email marketing provider that meets HIPAA compliance requirements. Ensure they are willing to sign a business associate agreement (BAA) outlining their responsibilities for safeguarding PHI. 
  3. Security measures: Verify that the selected provider employs encryption and other security measures to protect PHI in marketing emails. HIPAA mandates strong security measures to ensure data integrity and confidentiality. The provider should offer encryption for emails containing PHI and robust access controls to limit unauthorized access.

When evaluating potential email marketing service providers, inquire about their HIPAA compliance measures and request references or case studies showcasing their successful handling of healthcare clients' email campaigns.


3: Limit PHI usage to necessity

Once you have patient consent and a compliant email marketing service, limit the use of PHI in marketing emails to what is absolutely necessary to achieve the email's purpose.

While personalization can enhance patient engagement, ensure that any inclusion of PHI aligns with the legitimate purpose of the email. Avoid including extraneous or unnecessary PHI, as this could compromise patient privacy.

Additionally, consider the following:

  • Data segmentation: Segment your email lists to ensure that recipients receive only information relevant to their healthcare needs. This minimizes the need for excessive PHI in marketing emails.
  • Personalized content: Implement personalized content in your emails, allowing you to base the email's content on recipient characteristics or preferences.
  • Data retention: Establish clear policies for retaining email marketing data, ensuring that PHI is securely deleted when no longer needed.

Go deeper2023 email marketing benchmarks in the healthcare industry

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