Constraints and Compliance: How to Get Outside the Box with Your Healthcare Marketing

February 27, 2020

You want to paint a picture of how your healthcare company, medical device or hospital can enhance your patient’s quality of life. To illustrate this message, you fill your canvas with eye-catching images, condition call outs, studies/statistics and patient testimonials in hopes that it will reach the right audience. However, legal compliance may transform your once brilliant masterpiece to a shell of its former self. “When thinking about legal compliance, there are two factors to consider: HIPAA compliance and accuracy of data,” Orange Label Client Success Director Michelle Torr says. Left with a limited selection of patient stories, images and messaging, your marketing now feels lackluster. The question is, how do you stay creative in a such a heavily regulated environment? Here are some solutions to achieving healthcare marketing that makes you say, “hip, hip, hooray,” while staying compliant with hip, hip HIPAA and other legalities.

Difficulty Sharing Patient Stories

As humans, we are intrinsically connected to the power of stories, having told them since the Stone Age. In today’s digital world, stories take a different form with 83.3% of patients claiming to trust online reviews more than personal recommendations. While there’s no doubt that these stories play a pivotal role in marketing, one of the biggest challenges is not having formal approval to share a patient story, Creative Strategy Director Alyse Stranberg says. Another is capturing the details of the patient experience that aren’t “off limits” according to HIPAA. “Leaving these details out can sometimes cause a patient story to feel generic – and here lies the creative challenge,” Alyse explains. These issues can be resolved in two ways: attaining the appropriate requests for approvals from patients to share their stories on multiple medias and expanding the ways in which these authentic testimonials are captured.  “Conducting actual interviews via phone or in person with the patient is so much more powerful than simply receiving a story submission,” Alyse says. “It allows a story to truly come to life.”

Limited Selection of Images

A picture’s worth a thousand words, but in healthcare marketing your photo selection can often be limited. While stock photography is an option to overcome this barrier, relying on it as the only option can make marketing appear disingenuous. It also presents a lack of originality if potential patients are seeing the same stock photos associated with different organizations, industries and brands. “To address HIPAA, having appropriate release forms and permissions can allow the use of patient stories, and imagery,” Michelle says. Aside from custom photography, another solution is to create vector art, illustrations, charts, graphs and motion graphics. These elements can give your marketing an edge over the competition and make your organization stand out.

When incorporating images into social media marketing, however, you’ll also need to be mindful of each platform’s compliance restrictions. Advertising on Facebook and Instagram requires that posts include less than 20% text, including text that’s overlaid on the image itself and text in the caption. Anything more than that runs the risk of achieving a lower reach or in worst cases, not running at all. Charts and graphs may pose an exception to this rule, but text should be kept to a minimum. To avoid marketing that can be deemed as offensive or sensational, before and after images cannot elicit a negative self-perception or contain unlikely results.

Minimal Messaging

Clear, creative, relatable. Balancing all three of these elements can be especially tricky when it comes to healthcare marketing, but it’s not impossible. By listening to what your patients are saying, you can find the most stand-out features of your medical procedure, device or healthcare organization to come up with something that resonates with your audience. Once this legwork is done, the creative brainstorming can begin. While campaign messaging will vary depending on your company’s internal sensitivities and goals, as well as HIPAA and compliance, factors to keep in mind when crafting your copy include:

  1. Avoiding absolute statements
  2. Writing for your audience – physicians, patients and industry insiders
  3. Maintaining appropriate permissions and paperwork before sharing patient stories
  4. Citing relevant studies when referring to safety, statistics and outcomes

Finding a balance between HIPAA compliance, social media compliance and other regulations can seem like an uphill journey when it comes to healthcare marketing. However, the life-altering effects that it can have on patients makes it all worth it. As a client, the best way to work with Orange Label to achieve dynamic healthcare marketing is by ensuring that, “anyone who is involved in marketing and/or PR (on your team) is well-versed in HIPAA and overall healthcare compliance, and keeps this top of mind,” Alyse says. Communicating internal legal requirements, sensitivities, creative preferences and dislikes also plays a key role in streamlining the process.

As for creative objectives, a willingness to adapt a mindset that is between risk averse and risk-it-all will garner the best results and ensure compliance requirements are met. “From the risk adversity side, I’ve worked with clients who live in the world of asking for forgiveness and others who follow strict legal compliance,” Michelle says. “The former naturally creates more space for creativity, but creativity is still more than possible when legal compliance is on the line. That’s just where the client’s willingness to be BOLD plays such a major role.” Find out how we can make your healthcare marketing more impactful:

Written By: Michelle Komala
Contributors: Annie LoweAubrey Closson

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