HIPAA and Healthcare Marketing: Knowledge is Power

Posted on December 10, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Healthcare Marketing

As competition between healthcare providers continues to surge, hospitals need to step up the pace when it comes to their marketing efforts.

But in the "world according to HIPAA," many marketers feel like their hands are tied under stringent rules that define "marketing" as:

"A communication about a product or service that encourages recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service."

With limited exceptions, the Privacy Rule requires an individual's written authorization before a use or disclosure of his or her protected health information can be made for marketing. So how can marketers effectively market?

First and foremost, don't let HIPAA become an excuse for tapering off on your marketing efforts. Knowledge is power. So take some time to familiarize (or re-familiarize) yourself with HIPAA's marketing rules. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind as you plan for the year ahead.

  • Testimonials: Patient testimonials can add credibility to many marketing campaigns. Obviously, a patient must approve the use of a specific testimonial before it can be used. But don't stop with a "standard" release form. HIPAA regulations and release forms also apply. And be sure to keep all signed copies on file. Same goes with using patient photos. Be sure to get - and retain - photo releases.
  • Truth in advertising: There's not much room for vague statements under HIPAA. So if you can't back it up, don't make the statement. Advertising claims must be factual - and verifiable.
  • Mailing lists: When it comes to direct marketing to consumers, do not use lists that originate from personal records, such as private practice information. Note, however, there is an exception to the marketing definition which permits communications by a covered entity about its own products or services. For example, under this exception, it is not "marketing" when:
    • A hospital uses its patient list to announce the arrival of a new specialty group (e.g., orthopedic) or the acquisition of new equipment (e.g., x-ray machine or magnetic resonance image machine) through a general mailing or publication.
    • A health plan sends a mailing to subscribers approaching Medicare eligible age with materials describing its Medicare supplemental plan and an application form.
  • Authorization is a given - in most cases: The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires an authorization for uses or disclosures of protected health information for all marketing communications, except in two circumstances:
  1. When the communication occurs in a face-to-face encounter between the covered entity and the individual; or
  2. The communication involves a promotional gift of nominal value.
  • When it doubt, check it out: If you have questions, refer them to a legal professional who's familiar with your state's laws. Also be sure to check out the Marketing section on HHS.gov to review details about marketing under HIPAA.

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Do you Micro-Campainage your Business?

Posted on December 14, 2012

JohnCorpusHead6By: John Corpus, Vice President of Strategy, Legato Healthcare Marketing

Have you ever gotten so caught-up in client work that you forget to promote your own business? Your agency is a great guinea pig for any type of campaign you want to test before you propose it to a client. Here is a great example of what we are taking a shot at.

As a small agency, it is hard to gather a following, but even more so to capture "Likes" on our Facebook page. So, we are running a micro-campaign to generate some "Likes" and create a little buzz about Legato, which is what advertising and marketing is all about. And the way we're doing it, is so simple, anyone can do it.

Our campaign consists of nothing more than making a donation to the American Red Cross Superstorm Sandy Relief effort, but we are asking for help from our personal and business connections. And, by partnering with a reputable non-profit organization like the Red Cross, we also have access to their nationwide network.

Here is the skinny: for each Facebook Page "Like" we receive, we will donate $1, up to $2,000. And we want to do this by Christmas. What do you think our chances are for success?

The logistics are simple, but strong: we believe we can do it and we want to be successful. The success however, is not so much in achieving 2,000 "Likes," but rather in making it count for something outside of the business.

Meanwhile, if you want to check our Facebook Page to see how the "Likes" are coming along, go to www.facebook.com/LegatoMarketing. We started with 90. Oh, and while you are there, why don't you "Like" us as well.

If this idea sparks you to action, let us know; we would love to hear about it.

Have a Merry Christmas, and let's hope that we can make it merry for those suffering the plight of Superstorm Sandy as well.

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Modest Ways to Talk Up Your Healthcare Awards

Posted on December 18, 2012

nicolehangartner_head2-e1335213473498By: Nicole Hangartner, Account Executive, Legato Healthcare Marketing

To a healthcare organization (especially a rural hospital or clinic), awards for patient satisfaction, employee satisfaction and overall performance are big talking points. While they demonstrate your commitment to quality care, they can't always stand alone in an advertisement without seeming too boastful.

Here are three ways to modestly promote your organization's healthcare awards:

  1. Awards are a great topic for social media posts. When creating award posts, think about mentioning and thanking the people who helped the organization win the award. Providing this recognition can increase employee, physician and even patient engagement on your page. If someone is mentioned in the post, he or she will be more likely to share it with friends and family. Also, if available, include a photo from the award ceremony or a link to an article announcing the award.
  2. Save a space on your website for awards. Have a page that lists all your awards and then highlight the most recent on the homepage. If the award pertains to a specific service line, add a blurb about it on that specific service line page. That way, patients searching for that type of care will see that you excel in it.
  3. Don't just create an ad announcing your latest award; tie it in naturally with real patient benefits for a more impactful message. If you won an award for cardiac care, use a real patient success story to demonstrate why you won that award. This is the perfect opportunity to brag a little without full-on chest banging.

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Market research goes mobile

Posted on December 26, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President, Legato Healthcare Marketing

Not too long ago, online technology took market research to new heights of speed, reach and cost efficiencies. Online surveys made it easier to get in front of busy professionals, and just as busy stay-at-home moms and dads, and computer-savvy Gen Xers.

So where does market research go from here? Think mobile. And while you're thinking, here are some stats to back up those thoughts:

  • In 2011, there were 835 million smartphone users, 5.6 billion feature phone users (Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins, Morgan Stanley Research via Business Insider).
  • Global internet usage will more than double by 2015, and most of these users will be mobile (Boston Consulting Group, Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins, Morgan Stanley Research, Berg Insight via Business Insider).
  • Adults spend more media time on mobile devices than with newspapers and magazines combined (eMarketer December 2011).
  • On average, it takes 90 minutes to respond to an email, but 90 seconds to respond to a text message (CTIA).

"Going mobile" is not - I repeat "NOT" - the be all and end all when it comes to conducting market research in 2013 and beyond. However, it may be another viable tool if you want to capture data on a larger scale, but with less detail.

For example, brief mobile studies can be developed to reach smartphone owners using web-based surveys for mobile browsers, as well as standard cell phone users. Let me underscore the word "brief."

If and when you go mobile with your market research, make sure your survey is easy for consumers/patients, physicians, staff - whoever your target audience - to provide quick feedback.  That way you can identify the responders (i.e., those who are willing to share their reactions with you), then follow up with a more traditional qualitative survey online.

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