How to use Social media and Email Marketing for your Medical Practice.

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.

Companies that integrate email with social media marketing can build customer loyalty and generate brand recognition.

How to use social media without violating HIPAA

You as a healthcare providers must be careful about how you use social media in order to avoid violating HIPAA by exposing a patient’s protected health information (PHI-protected health information). 

There are a number of limitations that covered entities must consider.

So, it’s 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
  • Share health and wellness tips
  • Support other local businesses and partners
  • Promote events related to your practice

The benefits of social media

Don’t let all the Hippa rules deter you from having a good social media strategy! 

More and more people around the globe are using social media. In fact, when it comes to health care, social networks play an important role in everything from information gathering to connecting with people going through similar experiences. 

Consider the following: 

  • 80% of internet users search for health information, and almost 50% would like information about a specific doctor.
  • 60% of consumers say they trust doctors’ social media posts.
  • More than 75% of Americans use social media to research their health symptoms.

As social media is becoming more integrated into our daily lives, it unveils countless opportunities for medical businesses that are looking to reach out to their target audience.

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.

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.  Just check out some of the examples we listed 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.

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. 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 and 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.

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 your engagement on social media by reminding subscribers that your brand has an active social community.

  • Put links in your social media posts and also 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, your business then has a more direct and effective way of communicating with them than on social media.

Also, since they opted in, you are not limited in the types of email marketing you can send to patients, as we explained above.

Recycle your content

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 a Facebook post  to explain something to your audience, the next time you send an email campaign, try linking to that social media posy instead of writing new content. Once again, this will nudge subscribers to follow you on social media.

This tactic works in the other direction, too. If you tell an in-depth story in an email update you can also 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.

Conclusion

The most successful brands are able to integrate all branches of their marketing together to create an amazing customer experience.  

Are you ready to take the next step and expand your medical organization’s social media or email marketing footprint? Our award-winning digital marketing team at ModFXMedia is standing by to show you how you can do just that. Contact us today to schedule your discovery session.
🔸️Why you’re here, read how your Medical practice Can Make 30K in just 30 Days! We share with you our 10 important Key Factors that we have personally used to help other practices accomplish this!

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HIPAA Social Media Rules For Your Medical Practice.

Does your Medical practice use social media? It’s a reliable way to reach, educate, communicate, and draw in new clientele. However, if your business falls into the health and medical care category, you must follow HIPAA social media rules for all online actions. These rules outline what you can and cannot share, say, or post on both business and personal pages of the establishment and all staff.

Unfortunately, many private facilities shy away from any form of social media engagement due to fear of violating HIPAA rules. This leaves these businesses missing out on valuable audiences that are not only listening, but looking for them online.

Consider the following: 

  • – 80% of internet users search for health information, and almost 50% would like information about a specific doctor.
  • – 60% of consumers say they trust doctors’ social media posts.
  • – More than 75% of Americans use social media to research their health symptoms.

Do you run or work for a business in the health care sector and are ready to take your visibility online? Follow along to discover how to be HIPAA compliant on social media and what this looks like for your pages.

HIPAA and Social Media

When it comes to health care, social networks play an important role in everything from information gathering, to connecting with people going through similar experiences. 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) established in 1996 works to protect the privacy and health information of patients to ensure complete confidentiality. This act came into play long before the introduction of social media but clearly impacts what health institutions can and cannot share online.

When in breach of the HIPAA social media guidelines, violators face lofty penalties which could include a fine or even loss of license. For this reason, the importance of HIPAA compliance on social media is crucial for both the institution and patients alike.

HIPAA outlines that any and all PHI must be kept off of social media platforms unless express permission has been granted by the patient.

What Is PHI?

In order to follow the HIPAA social media rules and maintain compliance, individuals must first understand what’s classified as PHI.

PHI stands for personal health information. This includes all information about a patient, their care, and any details that could expose their identity.

This includes but is not limited to:

— Names, including nicknames social media handles

— Address or location hints

— Dates such as birthdate, appointment dates, treatment duration dates

— Phone or fax number

— Email address

— Web URLs or social media links

— Social security number and any other account numbers

— Medical record or health plan number

— Photographs and scans

— Vehicle description or number plates

— Fingerprints, retinal scans, or voice recordings

— Anything that could give hints regarding the patient’s identity

The only time in which any of this information can be shared on social media pages is when a patient has given express written permission. However, the patient must have a clear understanding of exactly how the information will be used and the purpose of sharing their details.

A signed agreement including clear indications of how the information will be used must then remain on file. This is essential to confirm the patient’s willingness to participate. Verbal agreements are not sufficient permission. Lack of physical proof of permission may result in HIPAA violations.

What’s Not Allowed

So what does this look like for your online sharing? The PHI information outlined above must not be divulged in any way, shape, or form on a digital platform for all health and medical field professions. This includes all posts, comments, replies, or online messaging.

Posts:

A medical business account and any associated personal accounts may not share any photographs of the patients, details of their treatment, or any other PHI indicators (without a signed agreement that is kept on file).

Even if you do not mention the patient’s name or demographics, giving a detailed description of their condition, the treatment, and even the results could expose the identity of the individual and breach their privacy rights. Even if the patient has shared their story on their own page, you must gain express permission before sharing any details.

You also cannot repost anything they have posted on their account, as this would give direct reference to the individual.

▪️This applies to any posts on social media, as well as blogs, forums, and any other online platforms.

Comments

A simple mistake that could breach HIPAA compliance on social media is the acknowledgment or disclosure of information in comments. These comments could be either on your own post or another user’s social media account.

Even if the information is available elsewhere, the business is not permitted to disclose details. This includes stating that they treated that particular case, when it happened, and mentioning who was involved.

▪️This applies to news posts, patient posts, other medical professionals, and any other online resources.

Replies

Businesses are encouraged to respond to comments on both social media platforms and sites such as Google My Business. Responding to comments and reviews is a great way to build relationships and boost engagement for your establishment.

Unfortunately, a HIPAA violation can occur when replies reveal too much information. This can include calling the reviewer by name, making reference to their treatment, or even defending the actions of the clinic by explaining the details of a situation.

Seeing as it is human nature to defend or acknowledge details, responding to feedback can be a difficult area in the healthcare profession. If you are ever unsure about what you can and cannot communicate in a reply, it’s always best to offer less.

If a comment has asked questions or stated information that you cannot safely reply to, you can always leave a comment stating that privacy laws do not permit you to disclose certain information, and where they can contact you if they have any concerns.

Online Messaging

Online messaging platforms have made group messaging and communication easier than ever. However, if you choose to use these online messaging platforms for work applications, there are guidelines you will need to follow.Just follow the same guidelines we mentioned above in ‘replies’. 

When online messaging, you are not permitted to share any PHI in direct messages or private chats. As per HIPAA, this applies to any online and offline conversations with individuals who are not privileged to the information.

Furthermore, any online conversations with other staff members or practitioners may not disclose PHI or reveal details. Because these conversations are now part of the digital cloud of social media, the conversations run the risk of being exposed.

Also, when discussing specifics of a patient, treatment, or in-office situation, all conversations should be private and offline.

What Is Allowed

While these social media rules may feel limiting, there are still several post formats and engagements you can partake in. 

Just like any other business, health care accounts are still encouraged to engage with individuals online. Your practice can do this by offering helpful information and insights with their posts, comments, and replies.

Content ideas that you can post about on social media 

  • -Share mental health tips that may help your specific client-base
  • -Link to new research related to your specialty
  • -Share inspirational or motivational quotes
  • -Let clients know about upcoming events your practice will be hosting or participating in, that will be open to the public.
  • -Brag about any awards your practice has received.
  • -Let clients get to know you better with staff bios and photos
  • -Offer discounts or special offers.
  • -Promote posts from your website’s blog
  • -Announce new business partnerships
  • -Post your reviews anonymously 

You Can Post With Compliance

Without disclosing information, there are several posts that you are permitted to share online. Any patient-generic information or advice that could benefit your patients may be posted on both social media and blogs.

This could include tips and advice about health conditions or even research articles about a relevant concern. The key to these information pieces is not referencing actual cases. As long as you do not mention your own experiences with treating clients or the cases you have observed, you will not be in breach of any social media rules.

You may also share information about events you will be taking part in. This could include upcoming specials, promotions, or celebrations. You can even brag about accomplishments such as receiving a business award or specialist certificates.

Many practices find it beneficial to introduce their staff and practitioners online with a brief bio and photograph. This encourages familiarity for clients who wish to seek treatment from your facility and serves as a business promotion for lead generation.

You Can Respond to Reviews

Reviews have become as valuable as a personal recommendation for potential clients. How you respond to your reviews could make or break your growth. Of course, as discussed above, even information revealed in reviews does not permit you to share PHI.

When responding to both positive and negative reviews, the safest options for HIPAA compliance include:

Thanking the reviewer for their feedback:

-Ask the reviewer to contact your office for questions, clarification, or to resolve problems. 

-You can also offer a solution to problems via an in-person consultation or a free appointment.

Responding ensures your audience that you care about the client’s concerns. They will see that you value feedback and that your office takes measures to provide the best possible service and experience.

You Can Engage in Conversation

When you are online with a business account, you are representing the views of your establishment with every interaction. This means the posts you like, comments you leave, and shares you save are all reflecting on your business.

It is important to consider all online actions and understand what messages they will send to consumers. This is applicable for any industry but especially true in the health sector.

You can reply directly to comments on your posts, but make sure to do so without mentioning names or disclosing information. 

You can also comment on posts by other professionals and even share their posts on your own page with appropriate credit.

If your posts follow HIPAA social media guidelines, your practice has the opportunity to grow considerably. Just remember, if you wish to share photos of events and celebrations, make sure that all individuals who appear in the content sign a release form.

Benefits of social media for your practice

As we all know, the majority of individuals partake in social media, which means that people are likely to look up your organization on these platforms. 

It can also increase your patient volumes, help you control the accuracy of health-related information available online, strengthen your relationships with current patients, and broaden your exposure to potential patients. 

Another perk is that patients are able to easily find your office online, view any information that you post, read online reviews left by other patients and be kept up-to-date on any changes to office hours, personnel, or protocols. 

In a nutshell, using social media platforms will enable you to promote your business easier and faster than just word of mouth and traditional advertising. 

HIPAA Compliance on Social Media Conclusion

Think of social media as your digital bedside manner – and gain a competitive edge for your medical practice. When used correctly, social media can take a medical practice to the next level by utilizing the existing platforms to reach current and potential patients already accessing social media daily. So don’t shy away from posting! 

Now that you understand the purpose of HIPAA social media rules and guidelines, you can ensure your social media activity is never in breach. From understanding what you may and may not share, you can rest assured that your business will never face fines or license suspensions due to your online presence.

Are you ready to take the next step and expand your medical organization’s social media footprint? Our award-winning digital marketing team at ModFXMedia is standing by to show you how you can do just that. Contact us today to schedule your discovery session.


 🔸CHECK THIS OUT! Why you’re here, read how your Medical practice can Make 30K in just 30 Days! We share with you our 10 important Key Factors that we have personally used to help other practices accomplish this!

Read More