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The Importance of Healthcare Exclusive Marketing Partners in 2024

The way you marketed your healthcare services in 2023 may put your health system at risk in 2024. 

New subregulatory guidance means digital marketing has to fundamentally change for all healthcare providers. Most agencies are not set up to handle these required changes. We proactively built a solution that’s compliant, affordable and extremely effective for all our clients.

The guidelines provided by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in December 2022 and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC’s) subsequent letter in July 2023 emphasize the need for healthcare organizations to take data security and patient privacy seriously. It's in this environment that healthcare-exclusive digital marketing agencies like True North Custom provide an indispensable service.

“True North has had a tremendous rate of growth as a digital agency for healthcare in the past few years, and the majority of our work is right at the center of what this guidance deals with. It was critical that we continue providing an advisory perspective to our clients and that all our services solved for the OCR guidance.”

— Eric Silberman, President and CEO, True North Custom

Why Healthcare Organizations Need Healthcare Exclusive Marketing Partners

Healthcare organizations have a profound responsibility to safeguard protected health information (PHI). A breach not only violates regulatory compliance but can lead to a catastrophic loss of patient trust. 

A healthcare-exclusive focus means an intimate understanding of industry trends and stringent compliance mandates. This expertise guarantees that healthcare organizations can channel their resources toward quality patient care and impactful marketing strategies without getting stopped by complex requirements.

“As a healthcare-focused agency, we have a lot of skin in the game when it comes to digital performance analytics and digital advertising. And we took a very conservative approach with our solution. One of our core values is stewardship, and to embody that requires us to genuinely think about the needs of our clients and the communities they serve in the solutions we’ve developed.”

— Jane Crosby, EVP, Strategy and Business Development

Unlocking the Power of Specialization

Selecting a healthcare-exclusive marketing partner like True North brings far-reaching benefits. From deep compliance understanding to leveraging specialized marketing strategies, True North’s tailored solutions, personalized relationships and current best-practice strategies are undeniably powerful for any healthcare organization.

“Recently, many healthcare organizations have contacted us after relying on marketing vendors who are not traditional healthcare agencies. Their agencies are saying, ‘We don’t really know. Let us know what you find out and what you want us to do and we’ll do it.’ That, to me, is a vendor, not a partner.”

— Jane Crosby, EVP Strategy and Business Development, True North Custom

Our Solution Transparency and True Partnership

True North provides full disclosure of our strategies, working as an extended arm of our clients’ marketing efforts. This process ensures compliance while focusing on making a meaningful difference in consumer healthcare marketing.

  • It all starts with a highly conservative solution that prioritizes stewardship of our clients’ resources.
  • We partnered with a healthcare privacy platform to control data flow to third-party tools, such as analytics and advertising platforms.
  • In addition, we restructured all aspects of our lead-generation tech stack, including landing pages, forms, lead management methodology and A/B testing, to ensure compliance.
  • We are HIPAA-verified by a third party for all processes and technologies. 

“We’re 100% dedicated to the healthcare industry. For us, it’s the ball game. As a true partner with our clients, we’re looking at the playing field and discerning opportunities or dangers and surfacing them proactively.”

— Rod Thomas, RVP, Business Development, True North Custom

Compliance as an Ongoing Journey

The HHS guidance took the healthcare sector by surprise, leading to a scramble for compliance solutions. A healthcare-focused agency like True North Custom didn’t wait for the fallout. It proactively made alterations and maintained digital marketing integrity amidst confusion.

Post-HHS guidance, the healthcare industry continues to seek solutions, altering analytics and ad strategies. Agencies are invaluable in sourcing customer data and analytics platforms, simplifying compliance, and aligning marketing with business goals.

Outlining the HHS Regulatory Changes

PHI covers individually identifiable health information that is created, received or maintained by a covered entity, such as healthcare providers, health plans or healthcare clearinghouses, or their business associates. To be classified as PHI, the information must relate to an individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health, the provision of healthcare or payment for healthcare services, and it must include identifiers that can be used to identify the individual. 

With the sweeping updates to HIPAA, the identifiers that now constitute PHI have been expanded to include 18 unique pieces of information, including:

  • IP addresses. For instance, if an IP address is connected to a specific individual’s electronic health record or medical history, and that IP address is used to access or transmit the health information, then the IP address could be considered part of PHI.
  • Device IDs. If an IP address is linked to a specific user or patient account within a healthcare system or application, and that person’s health information is accessible through that account, the IP address could be considered part of the overall PHI.
  • ZIP codes. This geographic information is considered location-specific data that could be used to identify an individual.

In July 2023, a joint letter from the HHS and FTC was sent to 130 different healthcare companies and solidified the federal government’s stance on tracking tools and how data is collected and stored. Within its jurisdiction, the FTC can review cookie opt-ins or identify misleading information. This letter better helps articulate that when someone’s data is not used responsibly, the FTC can and will intervene. As pillars in the community, health systems and providers should strive to use personal information responsibly, for the sake of the public and their own organizations. 

“The change in the compliance landscape is not going away. Having a healthcare partner on your side who understands the industry and really understands the healthcare consumer journey, covers all of your bases. It takes one thing off your plate knowing that you have a partner that’s staying ahead of it.”

— Christina Rich, RVP, Business Development, True North Custom

Looking to the Future

Adapting to HHS guidance means staying vigilant and genuinely committed to patient privacy. It involves looking beyond websites and analytics and reevaluating your entire digital marketing methodology. In doing so, healthcare providers can honor their trust and safeguard their reputations with consumers.

“If you reflect on why you got into healthcare marketing, I’d be willing to bet that you, like all of us, feel some connection to stewardship and helping people get the care they need. The heart of the OCR guidance is in the right place. This is about protecting the interests of consumers in a way that they can reliably seek out health information without concern for the commercial overlay that is so rampant in every interaction we have online. OCR provides a pathway to enable a purer experience for the consumer in helping them find the information they need, get the help they need and have a better outcome. We’re proud of our part in ensuring that for all our clients.”

— Eric Silberman, President and CEO, True North Custom

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