Why healthcare orgs are cutting spending on targeted ads

Healthcare organizations are cutting back their advertising spending and are beginning to scrutinize their marketing practices more as hospitals and health systems around the country are facing lawsuits due to the use of tracking technology, Politico reported April 18.

According to data from ad industry intelligence platform MediaRadar, nonprofit health systems cut their spending in half for targeted ads during the first three months of 2023. 

This shift comes as the HHS's Office for Civil Rights warned healthcare entities on Dec. 1 that using pixel tracking technology in patient portals and on websites may violate HIPAA.

Currently hospitals and health systems such as University of California San Francisco Medical Center; San Francisco-based Dignity Health; Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial Hospital; University of Chicago Medical Center; Pittsburgh-based UPMC; and Durham, N.C.-based Duke Health are facing patient-led lawsuits for allegedly sharing patient data via these trackers in their patient portals and websites.

Anna Rudawski, a partner at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright who specializes in advising healthcare organizations on data protection, said healthcare organizations are pulling back on advertising on Google and Facebook as the regulatory environment on using data trackers from third parties is unclear. 

A recent Health Affairs study found that 98.6 percent of hospital websites sent sensitive health information to third parties.

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