As a medical practice owner, you’re bound by HIPAA rules and regulations. That means that everything you do – from securing your patients’ protected health information to marketing your practice – must adhere to HIPAA. Practice owners often ask, “Is it better to handle my marketing in-house or use a healthcare marketing agency?” That’s an important question, especially as it relates to HIPAA. As you might expect, there are benefits and risks to both options. Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits and Risks of In-House Marketing Under HIPAA
Let’s start by talking about the benefits and risks of in-house marketing. We designed HENO to be an all-in-one solution for medical practices – and that includes marketing. And as practice owners ourselves, we know that there aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to HIPAA compliance.
Here are the benefits of in-house marketing as we see them:
- You’ll have complete control over your marketing, including how you structure your campaigns, how much you spend and what information you use in your campaigns.
- In-house marketing is often far less expensive than working with a professional marketing agency.
- Your in-house staff are more familiar with your practice, the treatments you provide, and your patients’ needs (and privacy) than a marketing agency would be.
- Your staff have already been trained on your core values and they have a deep understanding of what’s important so they can convey it to new patients and referral sources.
- Your staff is less likely to accidentally breach confidentiality than someone from an outside agency because they understand HIPAA rules.
- You’ll have control over which vendors you use and can be careful to choose only those vendors who are HIPAA compliant.
Of course, there are some downsides to handling your marketing in-house, too:
- Any marketing buys you make are unlikely to be eligible for economies of scale – discounts from printers and other vendors, for example – unless you have multiple practices to market.
- Your staff may have general marketing experience but lack specialized experience about the kinds of marketing that are most likely to be effective.
- Employees who work on your marketing campaigns will have less time to attend to their other job duties, which may increase the risk of a HIPAA violation if they aren’t being as attentive as they need to be.
- If your in-house team is juggling other job responsibilities with marketing, it may take some time to get each campaign up and running.
Some medical practices simply don’t have the budget to contract with a healthcare marketing agency. When that’s the case, in-house marketing makes sense.
The Benefits and Risks of Hiring a Marketing Agency Under HIPAA
Now, let’s talk about the risks and rewards of hiring a healthcare marketing agency to handle the marketing for your practice.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Healthcare marketing agencies understand HIPAA rules and usually make their staff attend seminars to ensure that they’re up-to-date on both their regulatory requirements and the best ways to ensure the privacy of their clients’ patients.
- Likewise, a healthcare marketing agency’s staff will be accustomed to using HIPAA safeguards on a large scale and you’ll reap the benefits of their training.
- Using an agency will allow you to benefit from certain economies of scale and may, in the long run, save you money.
- Agency staffers will have extensive experience in healthcare marketing and be able to recommend targeted campaigns that deliver the results you need.
Here are some of the risks of working with a healthcare marketing agency:
- Your patients’ confidentiality and privacy may not be as important to anonymous staffers at an agency as they are to you and your employees.
- You won’t have control over which third-party vendors the agency uses or whether they’re HIPAA compliant.
- Likewise, you won’t have control over the security of the protected health information (PHI) you share with your marketing agency.
You’ll need to weigh the risks against the benefits when you decide whether to hire a marketing agency.
Which Option is Best for Your Practice?
So, which option is best for your practice? Should you handle your marketing in-house or hire a healthcare marketing agency?
If you or someone on your staff has some marketing experience, then you may want to invest in an all-in-one practice management solution that includes marketing tools to help you streamline your marketing.
If you decide you’d rather work with an agency, take precautions. Before you choose a marketing partner, make sure that:
- The company you choose has healthcare marketing experience and is HIPAA compliant
- They work only with HIPAA compliant third-party vendors
- They have adequate security in place to protect any information you share with them
- They provide detailed analytics, so you can track their success and your ROI
As long as you choose an agency that understands HIPAA’s rules as they relate to marketing, you should be fine.
As a practice owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure your marketing efforts adhere to HIPAA rules. You can do that by choosing an all-in-one solution such as HENO, which will help you manage your HIPAA-compliant marketing or by hiring an experienced healthcare marketing agency to help you. To learn more about how using HENO can help streamline your medical marketing processes, click here to schedule a free demo today!