How healthcare marketers can take a 'privacy-first' approach

Healthcare marketing leaders can create lifelong customers by understanding, trusting and making business decisions based on data. But, those leaders must also evaluate how to ensure data is protected while trying to implement platforms, new campaigns and capabilities that enable more personalization and increased engagement for patients. 

Most recently, Novant Health said that one of its promotional campaigns used Facebook advertisements and a Meta tracking pixel that led to 3 million patients' protected health information being compromised. 

The tracking tool, which was intended to help Novant Health track the campaign's success, had allowed certain private information to be transmitted to Meta, Facebook's parent company, from the Novant Health website and MyChart patient portal.

As marketing executives are tasked with being in charge of developing the strategy for corporate advertising and branding, as well as customer outreach for their health systems, they also must ensure the data of their patients is put at the forefront. 

"People turn to healthcare for help when they are at their most vulnerable, and they share the most intimate details of their lives with us," said Amy Stevens, vice president of marketing and communications of Murrells Inlet, S.C.-based Tidelands Health. "It is incumbent upon all of us who serve in healthcare to uphold that trust and always put the privacy and well-being of our patients first."

In order to do so, marketing executives are working in collaboration with other executives to ensure that data, which helps marketers forecast their organization's needs and the effectiveness of their outreach initiatives, stays safe. 

"When it comes to ensuring patient data is protected, the key is strong partnerships with IT, compliance and legal," said Sue Jablonski, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer of Columbus-based OhioHealth. "We know that data privacy and the ability for users to control their data is continually evolving and that needs to be a part of how we continue to advance these efforts."

Shweta Ponnappa, chief marketing and digital experience officer of Renton, Wash.-based Providence, also says the key to keeping data secure is making privacy a part of marketing initiatives. 

"Data privacy and security must be a pillar of an organization's digital efforts — it must be managed as a strategic initiative rather than an afterthought," said Ms. Ponnappa. "Data privacy practices that are transparent, purposeful, and consent-driven, help build our brand and trust with patients."

Establishing and maintaining trust with healthcare consumers is critical in all kinds of ways — including an organization's marketing efforts.

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