HIPAA email marketing

Email marketing is arguably the most cost-efficient tactic available to medical marketers. Of course, that assumes that doctors, patients, and distributors actually receive your messages. As a healthcare marketer targeting patients, you must also follow the guidelines for HIPAA compliant email. Here are our top suggestions for improving deliverability and keeping it straight with HIPAA.

  • Don’t look or act like a spammer
  • Clean-up your list
  • Find an emailer with the right stuff
  • Learn the rules for HIPAA compliant email

A quick review of top-level email analytics will expose most problems. Here are a few that should send up warning flags.

  • An open rate in the single digits
  • A click-thru rate of less than 3-5%
  • A bounce rate above 5-10%

The bounce rate is particularly important, and your platform should allow you to review the reason for each bounce. Look for these notifications to see if trouble is brewing:

  • Unknown or illegal alias
  • Address rejected
  • No such user here
  • Bad destination mailbox address
  • Rule imposed mailbox access for email refused: user invalid

Let’s start with your list. It’s all opt-in, right? (Yes) How old is it? When was the last time it was updated? (every time you do a mailing). Otherwise, you’re mailing to people who have left jobs, moved, or died.

The Elements of Email Fail

From Address: What do you do before you open an email? You check who it’s from. Make sure that the from address contains the name of a real person, not info@gastroenterologist.com If possible, use the name of a person your prospect will recognize (that works in your organization).

Spammy Subject Lines: Don’t accidentally use a subject line that triggers a spam filter, like “ Urgent, your account is about to expire,” or hard calls to action on an offer, “Save 50% on MRIs,” and sparingly use words like sale, deep discounts, and cash explosion.

If your subject line sounds like SPAM, or a line from a used car salesperson, try something else. When in doubt, be direct.

  • Check your language. Bad grammar, syntax, misspellings, and Cyrillic lettering may peg you as a non-native speaker.
  • Your email must contain a physical address, phone number, and an unsubscribe link. Most emailers mandate these as terms of use.
  • On the tech side, make sure links aren’t mismatched. For example, if the text link is spam-carving.com The link in the code should match and not begeneral-hospital.com/contest/spam-carving/  This type of masking is used by real spammers, and it could cause an email server to unleash the dogs.

HIPAA Compliant Email

HIPAA guidelines for mass emailing aren’t as stringent as a patient email with PHI (personal health information). The keyword here is mass. An email about hip replacement options to 10 patients is questionable, while your e-newsletter on wellness should be in the go zone. If you have a difficult call, either don’t do it, or consult a HIPAA expert.

For more information, visit US Health and Human Services.

Get Anti-SPAM help from your emailer

Before you ramp up your quest for greater opens and deliverability rates, find out if your email provider is up to the task. What to look for:

  • Your sender must offer Sender Policy Framework (SPF) validation. SPF foils spoofers by allowing mail exchangers to confirm that your email was sent by an authorized user. Check the SPF status of your domain names here.
  • HIPAA Certification. Are you emailing to patients? You should consider a HIPAA certified email provider, and read about the pros and cons here. And ask for a copy of the certificate. To review HIPAA certified emailers go here.
  • A/B testing is an on-going necessity for testing elements of your email that affect open rates: from addresses, click-thru rates, minor, and major design changes, and subject lines. Find out what works the best for you and watch your opens and clicks improve by double digits.
  • Time Zone Delivery is another powerful tool for medical device marketers that have national or international audiences. Pop send once, and the email is opened in Paris, France, and Paris, Texas, at the same local time.