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HIPAA Compliance Alert: What Healthcare Marketing Teams Need to Know

by Marie Lewis | Jun 14, 2024, 14:19 PM
A stylized image showing three healthcare providers having a discussion around a laptop computer

New HIPAA guidance released in March 2024 by the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has some healthcare marketing teams scrambling to achieve compliance. 

Healthcare Digital Marketing

The new guidance emphasizes that transmitting protected health information (PHI) to tracking technology vendors for marketing purposes, without authorization, constitutes a violation. These tracking technologies include third-party integrations used for marketing, advertising, appointment scheduling, social media, analytics, and more. Among the highest-risk tools are Google Ads, Analytics, and Maps, as well as Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube. 

Forms of Impermissible Disclosure

Non-compliance with HIPAA can result in hefty penalties including steep fines, bans from using marketing technology, and damage to your reputation. 

In 2023, OCR fines ranged from $15,000 to $1.3 million, totaling more than $4.1 million. The categories of violations included:

Security Rule Violations. After hacking, phishing, and other data breach incidents happened, organizations were fined when they failed to conduct a security risk analysis (SRA), implement policies and procedures, and lacked adequate security controls. 

Right of Access. Organizations were fined when they failed to provide patients with timely access to their medical files. 

Unauthorized Access and Disclosure. Whether by data breach, or unknowingly by staff (in some instances when responding to online reviews!) unauthorized access and disclosure led to fines when organizations showed a lack of policies, procedures, and access controls.

Given the complexity and ever-evolving nature of HIPAA regulations, staying compliant can feel like a daunting task. This is where the expertise of BoxCrush comes in.

Our Approach to HIPAA Compliance

BoxCrush helps healthcare marketing teams achieve HIPAA compliance by examining all areas of an entity’s digital architecture to identify potential vulnerabilities and provide solutions designed to improve the experience for staff and patients alike. 

1. Comprehensive Website Audit
Our first step is to perform a thorough audit of your existing website. We evaluate a range of areas, including your website content management system (CMS), marketing technology, hosting infrastructure, and all areas involving data collection, such as contact forms and cookies. This audit helps us identify potential vulnerabilities and recommend solutions tailored to your site as well as your marketing and business objectives. 

2. Implementing Secure Data Collection Practices
To protect user data, we help ensure that any form on your website that collects PHI is secure. This includes using encrypted connections (HTTPS), securing form submissions, and helping to ensure data is only accessible to authorized personnel. 

3. Cookie Management and Tracking Protection
Cookies are used to track user behavior and gather analytics data. However, when dealing with healthcare information, this tracking must be carefully managed. A cookie consent banner does not absolve an organization from HIPAA obligations. However, BoxCrush has helped clients draft content (approved by your legal team) about how your data is used so patients feel comfortable and secure when using your website.

4. Secure Third-Party Integrations
As mentioned above, many healthcare websites use third-party tools for a wide range of objectives. We evaluate these tools for HIPAA compliance and configure them to minimize the risk of data breaches. This often includes assisting our clients in implementing a business associate agreement (BAA), which protects PHI and is required when using a contractor or third party to perform business services. 

5. Regular Security Updates and Monitoring
HIPAA compliance is an ongoing process, not just a one-time task. We provide regular updates and monitoring to help ensure your website remains secure against emerging threats. This includes software updates, security patches, and continuous monitoring for any suspicious activity.

Why Choose BoxCrush? 

At BoxCrush, we understand the unique challenges faced by healthcare providers in delivering a first-class patient experience while meeting business goals and maintaining HIPAA compliance. Our team has extensive experience in healthcare digital marketing and data security. Our portfolio of healthcare clients and projects includes Henry Community Health, Hancock Regional Health, Center for Pain Management, and MW Dentistry & Esthetics. We are dedicated to providing personalized solutions that meet your specific needs and help you navigate the complexities of HIPAA regulations.

Let us help you create a secure, compliant, and user-friendly website that enhances your online presence while safeguarding patient privacy. Schedule a meeting to learn more about our services and how we can help you stay HIPAA-compliant.

 

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