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HIPAA Compliance in a Sea of Paid Media Pixels

Data & AI Solutions

May 6, 2024

*This post originally appeared on Softcrylic.com. Softcrylic is a Hexaware company.*

In the evolving digital landscape, healthcare companies face a unique challenge when balancing effective marketing strategies with stringent patient privacy regulations, namely the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The latest HIPAA updates have demanded a fresh look at healthcare companies’ approach to online marketing, particularly in the use of paid media pixels.

A Look Into HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA mandates protection of patients’ personal health information (PHI). Recently, HIPAA rules have been updated to enhance patients’ right to access their health data, improve protections for health information, and bolster the push towards more coordinated care. Because Softcrylic is a third-party consultant that encounters PHI, we are to strictly follow HIPAA rules. Consequently, healthcare marketing involving any PHI needs to tread very carefully.

Paid Media Pixels and HIPAA

Paid media pixels, tiny strings of code installed on websites, track user behavior and aid in retargeting campaigns. However, they also capture user data, which can potentially infringe on privacy rights. Under the new HIPAA regulations, healthcare companies need to ensure that the data captured by these pixels doesn’t constitute PHI, or if it does, is handled per HIPAA regulations.

Balancing Marketing with HIPAA Compliance – First Party Data is the Key

  • First-Party Data Strategies: To avoid potential breaches of privacy and maintain compliance, adopting a first-party data strategy is highly recommended. This involves collecting data directly from your patients in a transparent, HIPAA-compliant manner. This could be through website forms, surveys, or direct interactions, always ensuring that any PHI collected has necessary consent and is protected.
  • Clear Consent: Before collecting first-party data, it is important that patients are aware and give consent to their data. Also, it’s essential to be explicit about what data is being collected and how it will be used. Remember- transparency is key.
  • Data Minimization: Only collect the necessary data required for your marketing needs. The less sensitive data you have, the lower the risk to violate HIPAA’s “minimum necessary’ guidelines.
  • De-identify PHI: De-identify PHI to eliminate identifiers that could link data back to an individual. Under HIPAA, de-identified data isn’t considered PHI, and thus isn’t subject to the same restrictions.
    • Aggregation: A way to de-identifying data is to pool it in large quantities such that individual users cannot be identified. This data can be useful in identifying broad trends and patterns without violating privacy norms.
  • Audits: as HIPAA regulations evolve, compliance strategies must adapt. Regular audits of your data collection, storage, and handling practices are essential to maintain compliance. Always stay updated on any HIPAA regulation changes.
  • Collaboration with Compliant Partners: Healthcare companies should collaborate only with marketing agencies and technology partners who are familiar with and compliant with HIPAA regulations. Partners should be willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which extends the HIPAA obligations to the business associate.

For a Deeper Dive

Softcrylic has a multitude of resources on navigating the complex field of digital marketing for healthcare companies while maintaining HIPAA compliance.

HIPAA compliance is not an insurmountable barrier but a guiding principle for healthcare marketing. A focus on patient privacy and the judicious use of first-party data can help healthcare companies forge a path to successful, compliant digital marketing strategies.

About the Author

Geoff Ogrin

Geoff Ogrin

Geoff Ogrin is a marketing technology senior consultant. He has over 10 years of experience in digital analytics, managing business intelligence platforms, and leading MarTech platform implementations. Geoff is passionate about solving complex problems with clients to meet their business goals.

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