Tag Archives: government

stimulated HIPAA marketing

A few years ago, I helped write a book about healthcare marketing and HIPAA. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a major uptick in the number of media inquiries and emails from healthcare marketers who want my take on the HIPAA changes in the ARRA bill. I thought the interest would die off as time went by, but people still seem interested so I figured it would be good to go ahead and post what I’ve been telling people.

There were lots of changes to HIPAA in the ARRA (a.k.a. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. Stimulus Bill, a.k.a Porkulus Bill, etc), but there are two big changes when it comes to marketing and HIPAA:

1) It fundamentally changes the world for Business Associates
If you’re not a student of the exciting world of HIPAA, a Business Associate (BA) is any third-party person or organization that performs work that involves use or disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) on behalf of a healthcare Covered Entity (CE). Previously, Business Associates just had to sign a Privacy Agreement with the CE. With the new legislation, a Business Associate now has to set up the same safeguards and protect PHI the same way a CE would.

What does that mean? Basically, I think it means we’ll see lots of direct mail vendors, telemarketing companies, and other marketing support companies dump their healthcare clients because they don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy. While at the same time, I think we’ll see a new breed of these marketing support companies that will accept the added government imposed hassle for a higher fee. And that fee will be passed through the healthcare organization to me and you.

2) Definitions of “what is marketing” under HIPAA
This is the biggest change. ARRA further limits how CEs can use PHI for marketing without the individual’s authorization. ARRA limits the right to use information for marketing if the communication is paid for by an outside entity. It provides exceptions for treatment and communications about pharmaceuticals. And it mandates more options of an opt-out for fundraising communications.

What does that mean? It means healthcare organizations need to closely examine all of their marketing communications that are using PHI. Err on the safe side as the ARRA also increased fines.

The Big Picture
Are you familiar with Duck and Cover? I think that’s the stance that healthcare marketers need to take in 2009. As the Obama administration starts to tinker with the fundamentals of the present healthcare system — all bets are off for everything healthcare related (especially HIPAA) until we get an idea of what their final picture will look like. Either by a little or by a lot, the healthcare industry will change over the next 18-24 months. There’s no need to develop healthcare marketing plans for a worldview that may not exist in a few months.

Please remember that I am a marketing guy — not a HIPAA consultant or legal advisor. Please consult your HIPAA legal counsel and PO for the most up-to-date info.

William Henry Harrison

In my main keynote, I take the audience through a series of three essential elements for successful marketing. The first element, “Marketing begins with the Product” is usually met with a collective “Duh” from the room. But so many organizations skip this step. Many start-ups don’t even consider marketing in the early stages of product development.

The main question that you need to answer before you do anything else is: Do you have something that people want?

If the answer is NO, then all the “marketing” in the world isn’t going to help you.

Of course, if you’re the government, these rules don’t seem to apply. Current case-in-point: the new dollar coins. In case you haven’t heard, the US Mint is producing a new dollar coin that features all the presidents in the order they served. A new presidential coin will be rolled out every three months until 2016. It’s modeled on the 50 state quarter program and the Mint is betting the bank on it. (Ha!)

Bu these coins will be a flop. And there are several reasons. Aside from the fact that the portraits on the front of the coins are hideous, the main reason is that we’ve been through this twice before. I was given Susan B. Anthony dollars as “gifts” and told not to spend them. In the first year of circulation, I only saw one Sacagawea Golden Dollar as they were being handed out as trinkets by a bank at a home show. I did get nine of them once at a post office vending machine and finally had to take them to a bank to get “real money” since no one would take them from me for payment.

It looks like the Mint would have the sense to see that a dollar coin isn’t something that Americans want. If you produced something that customers had flatly rejected twice before, would you try a third time? The word on the street/blogosphere is that we’ll never see a successful US dollar coin until we eliminate the paper dollar, which isn’t likely.

Of course, the third time may be the charm. Since the project has to go on for the next ten years to get all the presidents, the public may accept them. Or in 2014, I may be trying to find a way to spend Calvin Coolidge at some place other than the post office.

Bonus Trivia:
—Jimmy Carter has to die by 2014…(he will be eaten by wolves in 2012)…in order for the program to keep working and have the Reagan coin come out. The coins have to be issued in the same order as the presidential terms and a president has to have been dead for two years to be on a coin.
—Yes. Grover Cleveland gets two.