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HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare Marketing – What, Who, Why, and How?

It’s been over twenty years since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations were enacted. HIPAA ensures that patients’ personal health information (PHI) remains confidential and secure. However, it can be challenging for healthcare providers with multiple locations to maintain HIPAA compliance in their marketing efforts.

In this article, we will explore the best practices for HIPAA compliance in healthcare marketing and explore the key considerations for ensuring HIPAA compliance in multi-location healthcare marketing.

According to Accent Consulting, the penalties for a HIPAA violation could result in fines of up to $50,000 (per violation). They also reported some eye-opening HIPAA data breach statistics1:

Hipaa Table

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal law that establishes privacy and security standards for sensitive patient health information, collectively called ‘Protected Health Information’ (PHI).

PHI includes any information used to identify a patient, such as their name, date of birth, medical history, and treatment plans.

HIPAA applies to healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and their business associates, including marketing agencies that work with healthcare providers.

HIPAA Requirements for Healthcare Marketing

Healthcare organizations must obtain patient consent before using or disclosing their PHI for marketing purposes. Organizations must provide patients with a clear and concise explanation of the marketing activity and give them the option to opt out of receiving marketing communications.

Any protected health information used in marketing activities must be de-identified, meaning all identifiable information should be removed. This action ensures that patient privacy is protected and that marketing activities comply with HIPAA regulations.

Who needs to be HIPAA-compliant?

Marketing, data security, and privacy compliance are crucial per HIPAA laws. Non-compliance can result in severe financial penalties, loss of reputation, and legal consequences. Violations can occur through email, social media, and website marketing.

There are no exceptions, all healthcare providers, big or small, need to be HIPAA-compliant. This applies to dental clinics, doctor’s offices, chiropractors, physical therapists, optometrists, and any medical or health clinics that deal with patients or healthcare information.

Why do you need to be HIPAA-compliant?

Here are some critical steps to ensure data security and HIPAA compliance in healthcare marketing:

  1. Limit access to patient information: Only authorized personnel should have access to patient information, and limit access to only what is necessary for their job duties.
  2. Use secure channels for communication: All communication channels used to transmit patient information should be secure, such as encrypted emails, secure file-sharing platforms, and secure messaging apps.
  3. Obtain patient consent: Ensure that patients provide explicit consent for using their information in marketing efforts and communicate the purpose and scope of the marketing activity.
  4. Anonymize data: Remove all identifiable patient information from marketing materials to protect patient privacy.
  5. Conduct regular staff training: Train all staff members on HIPAA regulations, data security best practices, and the organization’s specific policies and procedures.
  6. Conduct regular audits: Review your organization’s data security and HIPAA compliance practices to identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities and take corrective action.

Overall, ensuring data security and HIPAA compliance in healthcare marketing requires a proactive approach that prioritizes patient privacy and protects sensitive information.

How to Make Your Overall Healthcare Marketing HIPAA-Compliant

When developing marketing campaigns, there are several best practices that organizations should follow to ensure HIPAA compliance.

  1. Develop a centralized marketing plan: A centralized marketing plan that outlines the goals, strategies, and tactics for all marketing activities to ensure consistency and compliance across multiple facilities. The plan should establish clear guidelines for using PHI in marketing activities and ensure all staff is trained on HIPAA regulations and compliance requirements.
  2. Obtain patient consent: Healthcare organizations must obtain patient consent before using or disclosing their PHI for marketing purposes. This applies to all marketing activities, including email campaigns, social media posts, and website content. Provide the patients with a clear and concise explanation of the marketing activity, and give them the option to opt out of receiving marketing communications.
  3. Ensure data security: Healthcare organizations must ensure that all PHI is kept secure and confidential. This includes implementing technical safeguards such as encryption and firewalls and administrative safeguards such as access controls and staff training.
  4. Use de-identified data: All PHI used in marketing activities must be de-identified. All identifying information must be removed, including names, addresses, and other identifiable details. Organizations should establish clear policies and procedures for de-identifying data and train all staff members.
  5. Conduct regular audits: Healthcare organizations should regularly audit their marketing activities to ensure ongoing compliance with HIPAA regulations. This includes reviewing marketing materials, assessing data security measures, and ensuring all staff members are trained on HIPAA compliance requirements.

HIPAA compliance considerations in a multi-location marketing tech stack

Individually owned clinics acquired by a Private Equity Firm or merged under a larger brand umbrella must gradually unify and centralize their marketing activities and platforms. These platforms and marketing must be HIPAA-compliant. Health Information Technology (HIT) oversees technologies used to manage patient data.

All healthcare entities must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with each platform provider and marketing agency.

Here are some examples of digital marketing services and platforms related to HIPAA:


Ensure the website is secure (SSL) and shared data transmission is encrypted end-to-end. These include collecting data gathered on the website, form fills, contact info forms, etc.

Link out patient portals to authorized patient management systems (PMS) that are HIPAA compliant. All patient relationships should be managed directly from the PMS.

Although this is not a core component of HIPAA compliance, we advise any healthcare website to be ADA-compliant to make it more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. Read more about the subject with our ADA best practices for websites and Unlocking the web accessibility puzzle articles.

Phone calls

“Make an appointment” phone calls via click-to-call from mobile devices should abide by the HIPAA requirements using call-tracking providers.

We recommend using a technology provider like CallRail, with privacy protection features integrated into its product. These features include Caller ID and text submissions, which are not included in the call notification email but are available upon logging into the CallRail account.

Hosting Platforms

Websites hosted on servers that comply with HIPAA and security requirements are called purpose-built HIPAA servers. These managed hosted platforms offer data encryption at rest and secured point-to-point transfer of electronic PHI data, high network availability, server firewalls, Linux dedicated servers, and power infrastructure.

Position2 has used LiquidWeb and AWS for HIPAA-compliant clients. Other platforms to consider are Microsoft Azure, RackSpace, and Connectrica hosting.

Online Tracking Technologies

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a detailed description of the HIPAA compliance requirements for online tracking.2

Google states that neither Universal Analytics nor Google Analytics 4 (GA) is HIPAA compliant. Their policies and terms mandate that no data be passed to Google that could be recognized as personally identifiable information (PII), and no data you collect using GA may reveal any sensitive information about a user or identify them3. Therefore, Google recommends that customers should not set analytics tags on pages that must be HIPAA-compliant – read more here.

We recommend using tracking technology purpose-built for healthcare. Solutions like Freshpaint are laser-focused on HIPAA compliance. Ultimately, you need to choose which data to send to downstream destinations. That critical oversight eliminates the risk of accidentally sending PHI and violating HIPAA.

Social Media Marketing

Many patients and healthcare professionals engage in social media posting. A compliance officer should monitor and document the healthcare provider’s social media do’s and don’ts. Create guidelines for image/photography usage, consent forms, private information usage, and phrases that might indicate HIPAA non-compliance.

HIPAA compliance checklist

There are a lot of components to HIPAA compliance in Marketing – we’ve got a great checklist to help you guide your teams.

Hipaa Compliance Checklist

HIPAA-compliant healthcare marketing is essential to any healthcare organization’s growth strategy. Multi-location healthcare providers must be organized and unified across all their locations. Multi-location healthcare marketing campaigns must develop a centralized marketing plan, obtain patient consent, ensure data security, use de-identified data and conduct regular audits.


  1. Accent Consulting – Infographic: https://accentconsulting.com/blog/health-it-and-hipaa-compliance/
  2. HHS, Health Information Privacy:
  3. HIPAA and Google Analytics:
Sangeeta Gupte

May 6, 2024

By Sangeeta Gupte