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Hip On HIPAA: Pushing Back to Use Patient Data

Hip On HIPAA Pushing Back To Use Patient Data

As we continue our series of posts on making HIPAA work for you, I am going to address a common problem we hear from health care marketers: “My board/boss/CMO/Legal Counsel says we cannot use patient data for marketing communications.”

This is a tough one. Truly, your board of directors and your legal counsel are going to ultimately dictate the amount of risk they are willing to mitigate in regards to using patient data for outbound communications. Some organizations have a zero-risk tolerance of using data. Period. Sorry, you may be out of luck. We know mistakes can happen. We know breaches happen. We even know that a phone call from a hospital VIP because their spouse received a personalized post card on weight-loss surgery can be a career altering event (true story). So, that aversion to risk isn’t unfounded. It’s real, and the fallout can be bad. HIPAA is serious.

So what’s a modern, data-driven marketer to do?

As stated above, you may be out of luck.

But… if you have the courage, you may also have a chance to change the hearts and minds of those zero-riskers by providing some new information.

In my experience, if you want to change a person’s mind, nothing works better than creating anxiety that someone else knows more than they do.

Let your leaders know how other health systems are gaining a competitive advantage and market-share by using PHI to be data-driven. Because they absolutely are. My last blog talked about how HIPAA expertise can provide the “secret sauce” of successful marketing, but this isn’t much of a secret. The evidence is everywhere. Everyone from top health systems to community hospitals are using patient data to drive successful communications while doing everything possible to avoid violating HIPAA. Nothing can state your case better than your competitor’s success.

If they can do it, you can too!

Earning patient loyalty through relationships

In a consumer-driven world, customer loyalty should never be assumed. Customer relationship management is about earning and cultivating that loyalty.

Would you remain in a relationship with someone who doesn’t listen to you?

Would you remain loyal to someone who doesn’t care what’s happening in your life?

Because there is a competitor across town who is more than willing to listen. They will know you are due for that colonoscopy or that your last mammogram was over 16 months ago. They even know you were recently diagnosed with hypertension. And they care. They’re not afraid to reach out and let you know they’re worried about you.

In healthcare, this is what a relationship looks like, and this is how we gain loyalty. You can’t do this without leveraging patient data.

A CRM database can be the tool that (just as its name describes) helps you to manage these patient relationships. I’ve talked in the past about how CRMs for healthcare have evolved to provide a “decision-engine” that helps understand the complex health needs of individual consumers and are still evolving to adapt the changing market. And I’ve also discussed how these healthcare-specific platforms differ from the Enterprise CRMs that are in use in virtually all business verticals. As you state your case to create a data-driven marketing department, a CRM platform can be a vital component of your plan. Make sure do some research on what you would need.

Overcoming assumptions about personalized marketing and patient data

In 2020 we worked with a large health system that was transitioning from a legacy healthcare CRM to Salesforce. In tandem with implementing the new platform, my role was to create marketing-automation strategies designed to jump-start key service lines that had slowed during Covid.

As we discussed the kind of encounter level information that could be used to trigger an email automation campaign, we learned of some internal assumptions that had kept them from using certain patient information in the past.

By overcoming these assumptions, we were able to build robust, highly-personalized HIPAA-compliant trigger campaigns that could run indefinitely – constantly finding the right person at the right time.

Being data-driven is much more than just sending out targeted communications

Patient data is the key to getting the right message to the right person. But even beyond targeting, the advantages to be gained by leveraging this information can transform all aspects of marketing, business development, and patient engagement. Be sure to share the other ways patient data can empower your activities:

  1. Better planning data & goal setting using data-science, modeling fueled by real encounter information can help create realistic markers for success. Model future growth based on past patients. Plot where high-value populations live. Use real numbers when determining how much to budget for future campaigns.
  2. Timing – my unsung hero of being data-driven – means really understanding the critical importance of timing in healthcare communications (see last blog) and being there when it matters.
  3. Tracking. By giving marketers better visibility into patient data, we have a much clearer view of success. Do the people we target truly return for subsequent encounters? If you can’t track response with patient data, you will be making a lot of assumptions regarding your own success.
  4. Data-driven content development. There is no better method to develop custom content for marketing than by taking a deep dive into the demographics of existing patients as well as those most likely to need a service in the future. A demographic profile of your past heart patients can give vast amounts of insight regarding how to talk to future heart patients.

With the right people and experienced partners, you can have the best of both worlds. It is possible to be data-driven while being HIPAA-compliant and doing everything possible to limit risk.

Put together a plan to get the resources you need to transform your marketing. Do your homework. Get examples of success stories and demonstrate how you can safely leverage PHI to create a truly data-driven department.

Driving your personalization journey

Are you considering ways to deliver a more personalized healthcare experience? Our healthcare experts partner with the largest payers and providers in the U.S., helping them build the strategy, technology, and communications to impact change and community health. Contact us to accelerate your transformation journey.

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Chris Restle, Senior Solutions Architect

Chris Restle has been one of the early pioneers in Healthcare CRM, working for the past 15 years as Principal CRM Strategy, Director of Strategic Innovation, and most recently was the Vice President Emerging Markets for Healthgrades. In his career, he has run client services, analytics, and data intake teams. He brings Perficient clients an exhaustive knowledge of the healthcare CRM market, campaign strategy, event-trigger design, and predictive modeling for planning and targeting.

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