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5 Best HIPAA-Compliant Marketing Analytics Tools

With 2.5 quintillion bytes released on the internet every day, data has become an indispensable marketing asset for companies across all industries. For organizations in healthcare and wellness, data is instrumental in offering personalized services, establishing efficient communication, and providing an overall improved experience for patients. 

However, healthcare marketing is significantly impacted by data security and privacy regulations, as these companies are mandated to ensure that the tools in their marketing stack are HIPAA-compliant to avoid unexpected violations and penalties. 

This guide will walk you through what HIPAA entails, why it matters, and some of the best HIPAA-compliant analytics tools used in healthcare so you don’t step out of line.

HIPAA—What is it, and What Businesses Does it Cover?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal statute enacted in the United States (US) to protect sensitive patient data from unwarranted usage, fraud, and theft.

HIPAA is specific to the healthcare industry in the US, and its main aim is to ensure that individuals and organizations in the health industry do not collect, utilize, or share protected health information (PHI) and electronic protected health information (ePHI) without authorization from their patients.

  • PHI refers to personal health information like medical histories, laboratory results, mental health conditions, and other information used to diagnose and prescribe the appropriate treatment.
  • ePHI is the patient’s data that is created, stored, and transmitted in electronic format. Some examples of ePHI are medical records, IP addresses, and phone numbers. 

Here’s a roundup of the businesses covered by HIPAA:

  • Healthcare Providers—These include doctors, psychologists, clinics, dentists, chiropractors, nursing homes, and pharmacies, as long as they perform electronic transactions that involve healthcare data.
  • Health Plans—These include health insurance companies, HMOs, company health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and military healthcare programs.
  • Healthcare Clearinghouses—These include organizations that help other businesses process non-standard health information into standard formats and vice versa.

These groups of businesses are referred to as “covered entities” under HIPAA. 

Also, any external entity that assists covered entities in carrying out health-related activities is referred to as a “business associate” under HIPAA, and such entity must sign a business associate agreement (BAA) stating that they’re aware of and will abide by the regulations provided by HIPAA.

If you’re unsure whether or not your business is covered by HIPAA, the Covered Entities Chart is a useful tool that can help you determine that.

How do HIPAA Regulations Affect Marketing?

Marketing is essential to healthcare businesses that want to build relationships with prospects, create better experiences for existing patients, and gain authority within the industry.

However, due to HIPAA’s strict privacy and security regulations, marketing activities are run a bit differently in the healthcare industry.

HIPAA gives patients control over how healthcare businesses access and use their protected health information (PHI) for marketing purposes. For the most part, HIPAA requires individual consent and authorization before the use or disclosure of said individual’s PHI for marketing-related activities.

The main objective is to protect patients from unsolicited use of their personal health data and to ensure they feel as safe as possible while dealing with healthcare professionals.

The list below covers some information described as PHI by HIPAA:

  1. Email addresses
  2. Device identifiers and serial numbers
  3. IP addresses
  4. Phone numbers
  5. Biometric identifiers
  6. Names
  7. Medical record numbers

A more comprehensive list can be found in HIPAA Journal.

While running marketing campaigns, you need to be certain that all HIPAA rules are duly observed, as minor oversights can cost you between $100 and $50,000 in penalties for each violation.

Apart from doing your due diligence internally, HIPAA requires that you guarantee the security of your patients’ data by using only HIPAA-compliant platforms.

HIPAA-compliant solutions refer to tools with well-defined structures and processes for maintaining the privacy and security of patient data under HIPAA’s rules. Using these will ensure you do not inadvertently get yourself into trouble.

Best Tools For Your Healthcare Marketing Analytics Stack

Running a safe marketing campaign is only one piece of the puzzle. To get the best results from your efforts, you also need to pay attention to what your marketing data says.

Marketing analysis empowers you to make data-driven decisions by giving you access to insights from your marketing campaigns. But as an organization in the healthcare industry, you cannot and should not just put any analytics tool into your marketing stack without properly vetting its HIPAA compliance.

Using a HIPAA-compliant marketing analytics tool will ensure that you optimize your campaigns for maximum results, and it will keep you out of HIPAA’s bad books.

To save you some time, we have done the heavy lifting for you, and right here, we have outlined five of the best HIPAA-compliant marketing analytics solutions you can start using today.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics display
Source: Haden Interactive

Google Analytics is the most widely-used analytics platform in the health industry.

But here’s the kicker: Google Analytics is not compliant right out of the box. To make the platform fit for use within the rules of HIPAA, you must make some adjustments (more on that soon).

Google is well-known across all industries because it offers high-quality functionalities at zero cost. But here’s why you can’t use it to collect PHI:

  1. Google stores all tracked data in databases located across the world and offers neither on-premise hosting nor bespoke data residency services. Thus, covered entities have no control over where their patient data will be stored. HIPAA sees this as a breach of accountability.
  2. Google uses all data within its systems to create new services, improve existing offerings, and create personalized advertising experiences. Using a covered entity’s PHI for Google’s scale of operations can cause a serious violation of HIPAA regulations.

Then how do healthcare organizations use Google Analytics?

To use Google Analytics, you must ensure you don’t pass PHI into the system. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Ensure that patient information is not included in your tracking URL.
  2. Make use of IP anonymization.
  3. Remove personally identifiable information (PII) from user-entered data on your form fields before sending it to Google Analytics.

You can read up on best practices on Google’s Help Center

Zendesk

Zendesk display
Source: Product Hunt

Zendesk is widely known as a customer service platform. However, it offers a slew of other tools. Here, we will be focusing on its analytics platform, Zendesk Explore.

Zendesk Explore provides powerful reporting functionalities that can help you generate accurate insights about your patients, prospects, and resources.

How does Zendesk handle HIPAA compliance?

Zendesk generally provides an advanced security functionality built into some of its plans and offered as an add-on for others. This advanced security feature offers an extra layer of security for your Zendesk data and helps you stay compliant with HIPAA.

However, this functionality does not apply to Zendesk Explore. To make Zendesk Explore HIPAA-compliant, you must make some manual configurations.

For instance, you will need to manually assign roles and permissions to all of your users. That way, you control the scope of data they can access.

Zendesk Explore also advises that you constantly review the content of any dashboards you share externally to ensure that sensitive data is protected.

Tableau

Tableau visualization tool
Source: Tableau

Owned by Salesforce, Tableau leverages visual analytics to help healthcare organizations deliver optimal experiences and care outcomes for their patients.

Marketing professionals in the healthcare industry use Tableau to gain deep insights into digital media spending, website performance, the customer journey, and more, all while staying compliant with HIPAA.

How does Tableau handle HIPAA compliance?

Tableau clearly admits on its resources page that it is not HIPAA-compliant right out of the box. However, it can be made HIPAA-compliant.

Tableau, in itself, is a reporting and query tool, not a database. Thus, its compliance is dependent on the end-user and the database governance in place.

In other words, to ensure that your whole operation is safe from HIPAA’s hammer, your database needs to be HIPAA-compliant. You also need to handle your patient data within the boundaries of the rules.

Here are some security features that Tableau users can leverage to stay compliant while using the platform for marketing analytics:

  1. User Filter for Row Level Security—This allows you to control how much data each user sees at a row level. 
  2. Column Exclusion—This allows you to clean your data source of information that a third party should not see.
  3. Hide Underlying Data—This feature enables you to toggle off the “view underlying data” in a Tableau Server View. That way, your visualizations will make the underlying data anonymous, ensuring extra security.

The whole modus operandi of Tableau’s HIPAA-compliance effort focuses on monitoring and controlling how much data users can access.

CallRail

CallRail platform
Source: Sourceforge

CallRail is a call tracking and attribution platform that helps businesses identify the marketing campaigns that bring in the most qualified phone calls.

The platform helps over 2,600 healthcare service providers build efficient marketing strategies and track every step of their prospect’s journey while staying compliant with HIPAA.

How does CallRail stay HIPAA-compliant?

CallRail takes HIPAA compliance seriously and offers dedicated tools to help its healthcare clients protect their patients’ data, as directed by HIPAA.

This is because, to help healthcare organizations properly track call data, CallRail stores two kinds of PHI: call recordings and caller ID information.

To ensure its clients don’t violate any rules, here’s a list of measures CallRail has put in place:

  1. CallRail signs a BAA with clients on its health plan.
  2. All data is encrypted both “in transit” and “in storage.”
  3. All call details are protected from external systems.
  4. CallRail provides unique login details for users and automatically logs them off after a period of inactivity.
  5. CallRail offers a full audit history for maximum transparency.
  6. The platform uses firewalls and private network gaps to make its systems inaccessible via the public internet.

The platform also encourages its users to take extra caution to ensure they don’t violate regulations by oversight.

Improvado

Improvado dashboard
Source: Improvado

Improvado is a no-code Revenue Data Platform for enterprise that automates all possible data processes and thus helps data-driven teams gain a deep understanding of their marketing performance and derive actionable insights.

The platform makes it easy for healthcare and wellness organizations to capture and analyze data across all channels, audience segments, and geographic regions in a bid to offer better services, increase clientele and boost their return on marketing investment (ROMI).

Improvado aggregates data from over 300 data sources, including the tools mentioned above:  Google Analytics, Zendesk, Tableau, and CallRail.

How does Improvado handle HIPAA compliance?

Improvado's role in HIPAA compliance focuses on maintaining privacy and protecting patient information from unauthorized access and usage. This is achieved by giving admin users full control over who gets access to patient data and what they can do with the data accessible by them.

However, as a marketing analytics tool with over 300 data connectors, staying compliant from its own end is not enough. To ensure that your entire healthcare marketing stack is HIPAA-compliant, you must ensure that all of your data sources comply with established privacy and security rules. This is because if one of your data sources falls short in security, accountability, and privacy, your entire marketing stack will be affected, and HIPAA could penalize your business for violations.

Bottom Line

Healthcare digital marketing is complex. Organizations need to take extra caution in ensuring that patient information is private, secure, and compliant with HIPAA’s marketing rules.

When building their marketing stack, healthcare and wellness companies ought to ensure that every single tool they use in regard to their patients’ data is compliant with HIPAA regulations.

If you want to know more about how Improvado can help you take your healthcare marketing strategy to another level while staying compliant with HIPAA, talk to our  experts today.

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