Tag Archives: healthcare marketing

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.

speaking south

A few notes on upcoming speaking events:

  • (near) Birmingham, AL — On Fri Nov 14, I’ll be talking healthcare B2B marketing at the annual national meeting of the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association.
    (more info and registration)
  • Baton Rouge, LA — I will be doing my presentation, “Selling the Image: Developing a Winning Brand Strategy,” for the Advertising Federation of Baton Rouge on Fri Mar 6
    (more info)

As always, if you need a marketing speaker to deliver an entertaining and engaging presentation on branding, media, healthcare marketing, sales, or any of the other marketing topics I cover, then please contact me.

spoonful of sugar

I’ve been expecting it to blow up.

Marketing Rule #2634 — If all the players in one industry start a marketing arms-race, it will escalate to a point that one of the players will be stupid enough to launch the missile that destroys the marketing for the entire industry.

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, you’ll know what industry I’m talking about. It’s hard to watch the evening news without suffering hypochondria. Side effects may include repulsion of stock images and cheesy people. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you.

Two ad campaigns / drugs stick out as the ones that have repulsed me the most. One is the scale city model maker who “shrinks” his prostate just like his handful of clay with Avodart. It definitely has the scariest disclaimer – Women should not even touch it without the risk of birth defects. Yeah – that’s something I want to take.

The other one I hate makes me wonder just how many people are walking around with genital herpes?

Back to my fabulous marketing arms-race / missile analogy —
Vytorin and its maker Merck/Schering-Plough have been stupid. You’ve seen the spots. People who look like food. Food that looks like people. Refresh your memory with this video —

The spots make me wonder what food I resemble. (Please leave your suggestions in the comments. Be kind.)

While the first or second versions of the spots were somewhat interesting and the people did kinda look like the food, they progressively got worse where I saw no resemblance. They should have stopped the campaign there. Or even better, maybe they should have stopped the campaign when they knew the drug didn’t work.

Their nasty little secret that they’ve known about for a year has come out in the news in the last few weeks.

From the blonde mini-skirted drug rep that is rushed past me as I’m sitting in the waiting room to the sleazy “consulting” trips that the pharma companies send doctors to in Hawaii, marketing for the entire pharma industry is SICK. This Vytorin fiasco (along with the next few drug scandals that I’m sure are coming down the pike) are just symptoms of the bigger illnesses.

Those illnesses being lack of respect for your consumer and lack of honesty about what you’re selling. What’s the treatment? The hardest medicine will be the eventual consumer backlash. I think (and hope) the more immediate treatment will be a big dose of government regulation and oversight.

Customer Service not Customer Systems

A local hospital subscribes to the Planetree system of patient care. They pump it on every promotional piece they have. Every commercial is tagged with it.

My challenge to the hospital would be to randomly select 100 patients and ask them what it means that the hospital is a part of the Planetree Alliance. My bet is that a super majority don’t have a clue and don’t care.

When you have to educate your customers that you’re both a part of something and what that something is, you’re working doubly hard for nothing.

People DO know what good customer service is. They DO know when they get an authentic experience with your organization.

Stop trying to live up to a buzzwordy system and start delivering an above average customer experience.

You won’t have to teach people what that means. You just have to deliver.

Big Marketing on a Small Budget webinar

It’s always a good thing when you’re invited back.

I have been contracted by HealthLeaders Media to participate in another healthcare marketing webinar called Big Marketing on a Small Budget. It’s coming up soon on Tuesday, April 24.

My co-presenters, Rhoda Weiss and Ken Trester, have extensive backgrounds in healthcare marketing and really know their stuff. In the preplanning calls and emails, we’ve been very excited about the content we’re putting together. The webinar will focus on getting the most out of a healthcare marketing dollar.

If you’ve attended my seminar “Shoestring Marketing”, you’ll recognize alot of the content that I’ll be bringing. My key takeaway in that seminar is not to solely focus on cost but to look at overall return on investment. I’ll also be discussing some new methods that have high ROI.

You can find a complete description and agenda for the webcast here: http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/webcast/4968.html

The year of HIPAA

This has been the “year of HIPAA” for me. Earlier this year, along with Kate Borten, I worked on both the Marketing under HIPAA webinar and book.

Recently, I was asked to write an article for the November issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

The article came out a few days ago and you can find it online here – http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/viewfeature/84310.html


Me and Matlock in the hospital

WARNING:: Don’t read this if you get nauseous easily.

I believe! Tom Peters. (!) The healthcare system is broken. And not just for the obvious reasons…

A bit of background to for you to fully see the foul mood I’m in…

On Monday night after supper, I became violently ill. Not just a mild sickness, mind you…but a full blown “wishing-my-gastrointestinal-system-wasn’t-part-of-my-body-oh-yeah-that-is-what-I-had-for-lunch-I’m-going-to-sue-the-restaurant-that-made-me-this-sick” kind of illness. After a night spent on my knees in front of the porcelain mercy seat, I felt well enough to work on Tuesday. About noon, I started shivering like I had never shivered before (on an 80 degree day anyway). I couldn’t stop. It was disconcerting and I felt horrible. So I headed to the nearest ER. I did not find George Clooney there.

I was shivering so much that I couldn’t fill out the intake form legibly. The check-in “guy” didn’t offer any assistance. He did shove me into a wheelchair and pushed me over to the wall out of the way. After about 15-20 minutes, I was taken (pushed) to “triage” where two nurses actually offered me a blanket and attempted to find out my history. They quickly pushed me to the financial desk where I told my entire life history and all my vital numbers to a woman between dry heaves.

I then was pushed to the middle of the waiting room…where I sat in my wheelchair while hearing parts of one and a half episodes of Matlock, an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and about 15 minutes of Ellen Degeneres (that’s about 2 hours and 45 minutes for you non-TV junkies). Also during this time, the hospital’s intercom had the following message playing about every 15 minutes “Because of above average patient volume, your waiting time may be longer than usual”

Thoughts running through my mind at this time…
–I’m going to be like that woman in the wheelchair at the NOLA convention center
–Those people in that chair don’t look that sick…I bet I go back before them.
–I bet they play the “above average” message all the time…I need to come back and check
–Those people in that chair don’t look that sick…I bet I go back before them.
–Matlock needs to figure out who killed Laura and Paw. Maybe it was Ellen.
–Those people in that chair don’t look that sick…I bet I go back before them.
–This will be blogged.

My wife arrived at the hospital (after arranging childcare for the boy and driving from a town 30 miles away) and we finally went back where I was poked and prodded. “Cultures” were taken. And I was given a shot that knocked me out from 5pm to 7am the next morning.

I feel better now. Thanks.

But here’s the thing. This morning and a few times today, I saw some advertising for the hospital. Actually, they “market” the hospital quite a bit. They talked alot about their customer service in the ads and how good they are for the community and their patients.


Like I said the other day with another much less serious failure of customer service, good operations and taking care of the customer are the best marketing you can do. How about plowing some of that marketing money into some OT for a doc when “above average patient volume” hits? How about realizing that your customers in a healthcare setting are already not happy because of their conditions and doing everything above and beyond? What about just being treated the way you would want to be treated.

Medical and healthcare providers HAVE to stop thinking about patients and need to start thinking about customers (which I have said before and before)

Now obviously, I wasn’t having a heart attack or didn’t have a severed limb, so you may think I’m overreacting. But in those cases…you don’t really make the healthcare choice…the ambulance driver makes it for you. The majority of healthcare decisions are made by a thinking consumer. And I think, I will make a different choice the next time.



One of my marketing areas of concentration is healthcare marketing. I have several healthcare clients and several of my keynotes are focused on healthcare markeitng. One of the big things that healthcare marketers are in the dark about right now is how to market under HIPAA, the federal privacy law that went into effect back in 2003.

Last spring, a national healthcare publisher hired me to co-author a book about the challenges and opportunities presented to healthcare marketers under the federal HIPAA regulations. And now, after months of work, my co-author, Kate Borten, and I are proud to announce the publication of: (drumroll)Healthcare marketing Hipaa book

A Marketer’s Guide to HIPAA
Resources for Creating Effective and Compliant Marketing

This book is a great resource for healthcare marketers and should be a part of the toolkit of all healthcare practices. Kate and I give a basic breakdown of the parts of the Privacy and Security Rule that are pertinent to healthcare marketers. We attempted to write the book in practical, easy-to-understand language and included lots of “real world” scenarios. We offer a breakdown of what HIPAA permits, and the conditions it imposes for using patient information in marketing initiatives. Overall, the book explains the parts of HIPAA a healthcare marketer needs to be aware of, and gives concrete examples of effective marketing practices that use valuable patient data, but that steer clear of HIPAA violations.

Obviously, I contributed most of the healthcare marketing content. As to the legal HIPAA side of the equation, my co-author, Kate Borten, is a nationally recognized expert and frequent speaker on the topics of HIPAA and health information privacy and security. During the writing of the book, I was continually impressed with the depth of Kate’s knowledge of HIPAA. I think you’ll be equally impressed.

To order the book, you can visit http://www.hcmarketplace.com/prod-4514.html

***ALSO*** I know that some of you participated in the “Marketing under HIPAA: Patient data and the law” webinar that Kate and I presented in August. This book is a great companion to that webcast. It gets much deeper into the material than we were able to with the seminar.

I have also added a version of the HIPAA webinar to my speaking topics. It’s a good addition to the other healthcare topics that I can present to your conference or meeting.


Customers. Not Patients.

As I talk to healthcare groups about the new world of healthcare marketing, I emphasize one point that’s sometimes well-received and that’s sometimes cast aside: The healthcare industry must stop thinking of terms of “patients” and need to start thinking in terms of “customers”.

These “customers” have choices: to participate in the treatment, go across the street to another healthcare provider, find alternative treatments, or not be treated at all. Healthcare marketing will influence the decision they make.

I was encouraged by this recent article in Wired magazine The article talks about a few hospitals “getting it” and taking notes from the hotel industry.

It’s a lesson that all businesses can take away. Even if you deal in a commodity that the consumer “has” to have, there’s a need for marketing. And marketing doesn’t necessarily mean more advertising and promotion. The best marketing you can do is to improve the customer experience. The dividends will come soon after that.


Marketing under HIPAA

If you’re even close to the healthcare industry, you’ve at least heard about the 800-lb gorilla that is called HIPAA. In some cases, some healthcare practitioners have been leery of database marketing in fear of violating HIPAA.

Fear not. Just sign up for a great webcast presented by Health Leaders Media called Marketing under HIPAA: Patient data and the law. Learn how to use patient data in healthcare marketing without violating HIPAA privacy laws. Join us on August 9, 2006 for this 90-minute interactive program. Kate Borten and I will equip you with the essential facts on how HIPAA and patient privacy impacts your healthcare organization’s marketing efforts.

Of course, my portion of the webinar will be about the healthcare marketing side. But, one of the real reasons to sign up for the webcast is my co-presenter, Kate Borten. I’ve been in the healthcare marketing arena for a long time….and after working with Kate, I’m convinced she knows more about HIPAA than anyone I’ve ever met.

Click here for more information about the webinar and to register. I think you’ll get alot out of it.