HIPAA and Healthcare Marketing: Know the Rules

new-hp-hipaaThe rules and guidelines surrounding privacy and personal information seem to get more and more complicated every day. Healthcare marketers need to be more careful than ever to protect patient privacy and personal information.

In general, the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires an individual’s written authorization before a hospital can use or disclose any protected health information for marketing. What does this mean for you as a healthcare marketer?

You cannot use protected information without authorization to:

  • Communicate about a product or service that encourages recipients to purchase or use that product or service
  • Use any identifiable information, such as names, address, dates, full-face photographic images, etc.

For example, HIPAA laws do not allow:

Communications paid for by the manufacturer of a product or service, unless the communication is about a product a patient is being treated with.

Unauthorized use of patient stories or photos in newsletters, mailings, etc. Give advanced notice and receive authorization from patient before publishing their story.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. You can use protected information if:

  • You are describing a health-related product or service that is provided by your hospital. For example, you can use your patient list to announce the arrival of a new department, physician or equipment through direct mail.
  • The communication is used to manage a patient’s care or to recommend alternative treatment.

These exceptions allow you to, for example:

Target specific groups, such as cancer patients, if your hospital is opening a new cancer center. This means you can create a mail list of patients based on the department(s) or physician(s) they’ve been treated by.

Create a fundraising mail list based on a patient’s experience or outcome.

Send communications about products or services that are being used or recommended for use by a patient.

When in doubt, check with your hospital’s legal team. You can find more information about HIPAA and healthcare marketing by visiting the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website at

Once you’ve navigated the HIPAA laws, turn to to fulfill all your healthcare marketing needs. From annual reports and newsletters to direct mail, brochures and more, we have everything you need to turn your healthcare marketing goals into success. Visit for more information.


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