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Hosting Medical Websites While Considering HIPAA and Marketing

By Kuno CreativeApr 6, 2016

hosting-medical-websitesMillions of websites can be developed and hosted on the Internet without too much worry; however, that is not the case with healthcare and medical websites.

In today’s world where sensitive information can be stolen easily online, laws are made to ensure the safety and the confidentiality of patients when a medical institution starts using electronic medical records, or EMR.

As a webmaster, or a company that handles similar websites, you should familiarize yourself with HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, Security Rule and how data must be encrypted.

Matters of Privacy

Medical privacy involves keeping all information about the patient confidential. It’s the right of the patient to have his personal information kept secure, whether information is passed through a conversation or through medical records.

Federal regulations have been enacted to ensure patient privacy as more U.S. hospitals use EMRs. In fact, it was only 2003 that we saw some progress in national privacy standards for medical information.

HIPAA: Why Is It Important?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that provides baseline privacy and security standards for medical information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of creating HIPAA rules and also enforcing HIPAA regulations.

There are two rules under HIPAA. The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to protected health information (PHI), which includes all "individually identifiable health information" that is transmitted or maintained in any format or medium. The Security Rule requires institutions to establish data security measures only for PHI that is maintained in electronic format, called electronic protected health information (ePHI). The Security Rule does not apply to PHI that is transmitted verbally or in writing.

Medical institutions that use ordinary hosting services may be putting their patients' confidential information at risk and violating HIPAA rules.

Does Your Web Hosting Offer High-Level Protection?

Data is always encrypted as it passes to and from the cloud. But to be compliant with the high-level protection needed for information, your website will require different control mechanisms to safeguard information.

Because of patients’ rights under HIPAA, it’s important to watch for security processes and policies on data dissemination. Keep a close watch on how patients implement authentication, audit controls, and access consent processes to reduce the risk of information leak.

In the event of a threat or an attack to the server, Web hosts are expected to carefully monitor systems and promptly implement lockdowns to ensure that no data will be compromised. Being attentive to details will keep patients’ data safe. Certain data restrictions can be applied in compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule.

Moreover, you can implement these steps to further consolidate your protection:

  • Check if your host can run activity log files and audits even at the packet layer.
  • Ask your hosting if they can log in IP traffic up until the virtual server instance.
  • Clarify if they offer automatic backups for long-term storage. Under HIPAA, entities are required to have a backup plan in case of an emergency.

If you’re planning to do an email marketing campaign for your future website, it’s ideal if you can avail HIPAA-compliant services similar to these:

  • 128-bit encrypted email systems
  • “Contact Us” forms that are HIPAA-friendly
  • CAPTCHA screen security
  • Site-secure website monitoring
  • Audits for security flaws
  • Communicating with patients through patient portals

Be sure your hosting company’s services fully comply with HIPAA’s requirements.

Inbound Marketing Ideas for HIPAA-Friendly Sites

Just because your site is HIPAA-compliant doesn’t mean you can’t implement marketing efforts. Here are a few tactics that often work for healthcare companies:

Collect Reviews and Testimonials

Check out this testimonial page from a compliance solutions company. If you offer HIPAA compliance services, testimonials from your clients can help convince others your business is reliable, boosting your authority.

These statistics bear out the theory that testimonials are powerful:

Create Retargeting and PPC Online Ads

Catching a user’s attention after he exits your site can be achieved through retargeting or PPC online ads. Because 77 percent of online health seekers start with a search engine before they decide on a healthcare provider, retargeting establishes brand familiarity that helps in searches, click-through rates and eventually turning a visitor to a customer.

Create Value with Content Offers

If you’re looking to establish your website as an authority in wellness marketing, you can drive traffic down the conversion funnel with content offers. For example, offer a free vaccine guide in exchange for non-medical information about your website visitors. Attracting interested parties to your website, converting them into leads and nurturing them down the sales funnel can create more patients or customers through your content.

While the core of your website must be HIPAA-compliant, you may want to consider using a second platform that specializes in content and inbound marketing, such as HubSpot. By integrating calls-to-action, landing and confirmation pages built on HubSpot to your main platform, you can easily track your website users’ engagement on your site.

Send Emails to Drive Engagement and Conversions

You must be thinking it’s ridiculous to send emails, especially in this industry. To quote Content Strategist Carrie Dagenhard on healthcare and email marketing:

“Whether you run a hospital or a private practice, a healthcare tech business or a home health service, communication is essential to building lifelong trust from your customers.

“By engaging in regular communication, you can help keep your brand top of mind, share thought leadership and open up important conversations. By sending well-crafted, personalized messages regularly, you can inspire your subscribers to engage in return by viewing your blog or reaching out through a contact form.”

Again, utilizing a second platform for email marketing helps make these efforts easier to build and track.

Use Social Media to Drive Traffic and Create Credibility

Use your social media channels to promote and engage with your clients. Social networking sites are more personalized, and you’ll be able to attract a lot of visitors to your site with it. A Facebook Page alone can help you gain credibility with its ratings and reviews panel; the more positive reviews you have the more you will build trust around your brand. Promptly dealing with negative reviews will also help maintain brand integrity, as people will appreciate that you do your best to resolve problems.

Awesome Customer Support Rules

Hospitals with EMRs will likely get inquiries from patients on how to get their information from the database. While this does not directly affect conversions, it is important to remember that word-of-mouth marketing affects consumer behavior as it can make or break your marketing efforts. A negative review handled poorly can affect your brand, especially if it violates either the Privacy Rule or the Security Rule. Patient confidentiality is top priority above anything else.

Use Survey & Feedback Tools

Marketing is a wash-rinse-repeat procedure. You continuously adapt your strategy to different times in the marketing sphere. However, I’d like to reiterate that we should consider marketing as a wash-rinse-sanitize-repeat procedure. It’s not enough to rinse away the negativities; you should commit to not make the same mistake again. Using feedback tools, you can gauge the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. Have you neglected anything? Are features on your site not working? Do you need more data to determine whether you need to revise your marketing strategy? Using surveys is the way to go.

Final Thoughts

If you're building a healthcare website, it's a good idea to research and interview hosting companies. Figure out if they know the ins and outs of hosting HIPAA-compliant medical websites, as HIPAA security should be a top concern for these hosting services.

Implementing an email marketing campaign for healthcare websites is also associated with your hosting use, so security is again another concern you have to address. There’s no certain way in knowing if a hosting service is HIPAA-accredited, but asking your chosen company about their services will give you an idea if they are compliant.

Do you have more tips on HIPAA compliance for healthcare institutions and businesses? Share it with us on the comments!

When he’s not grooming his beard, John Stevens works as a hosting expert and consultant. On his site, you can expect genuine, accurate and up-to-date Web hosting reviews.

Wellness Marketing Content Strategy

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Kuno Creative

Kuno Creative is more than an inbound marketing agency. We blend the best of inbound marketing with demand generation to achieve long-term growth with swift marketing results.
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