Compliant Email Marketing 101
Email marketing is an engaging, two-way form of communication used successfully by all kinds of industries to build and retain meaningful relationships with customers. However, when your customers are medical patients, you (the practitioner) are held to a different, higher standard of protecting your patient’s information through email marketing.
Email in-and-of-itself, is not secure. Unless both the sender and the recipient have encrypted email, you can’t be sure email is a secure way of communicating with your patients. Add in HIPAA and Patient Health Information (PHI) and, all of a sudden, email feels really confusing. At Unified Practice, we’re dedicated to providing you with the tools you need to run a successful practice while also maintaining compliance.
Here is a quick rundown of how to ensure compliance with your email marketing, as well as some great ways to engage your patients in 2020:
Ensure your emails are HIPAA/PHI-compliant
If you are planning on using email marketing as a way to engage your patients, please do the following:
Sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with your email provider.
This ensures that your email provider is aware they may be handling sensitive information and they should uphold HIPAA compliance on their end. Here is a list of HIPAA-compliant email providers. At Unified Practice, we have signed a BAA with Constant Contact and we encourage our practitioners to do the same if they want to use our email marketing integration.
Configure your email.
Just because you sign a BAA doesn’t mean that your email is HIPAA compliant — you’ll also need to make sure you enable HIPAA-compliant settings in your email provider account
Get permission from your patients.
Make sure your patients opt into receiving email marketing. These emails are different than reminders, so please make sure you get consent.
Do not include any PHI in your emails.
This is to protect you and your patient’s health information. At Unified Practice, we filter all PHI in our system, then sync those lists to Constant Contact. Constant Contact only gets a patient’s name and email — everything else stays securely stored in Unified Practice’s HIPAA-compliant servers.
It’s important to make sure you are not putting sensitive information, like last appointment date, birth date, visit history, treatment plans, etc., into your email content or into any email platform with which you have not signed a BAA. Filter your email marketing list first and then create custom, generalized content to engage with your patients.
How to engage with your customers via email
New Patient Welcome
New patients have all kinds of questions when they first book an appointment. A welcome email prior to their first visit is easy to set up and can have a lasting impact. You might want to consider including information in this email like where to park, specific attire, how full or hydrated they should be, or how they might feel after their first appointment.
In Unified Practice, you can filter for number of appointments (“0”) and create an email list to send to your new patients. Helping your patient prepare for their first appointment is a great way to connect and put them at ease prior to their treatment.
Within Unified Practice, appointment follow-up emails are automated and easy to customize, but it might also be beneficial to set up a campaign to check-in on your patients after one, three, five, or 10 appointments — you don’t have to go into their appointment history specifically to check-in. Asking your patients how they are feeling, reminding them how to get in touch with questions, and asking how they are doing with any herbs or dietary considerations they are taking empowers your patients to be proactive in their health journey and reminds them to schedule their next appointment.
As practitioners, we may stumble across a great health article about fertility, low back pain, benefits of a treatment, etc. that we think our patients may get value from. By using our Constant Contact integration, you can create a filter by ICD or CPT codes. For example, you could create a list of all your patients you are treating for low back pain and send along an email to just those patients highlighting this exercise you just learned about that might be great for them to try at home — all without disclosing any PHI. Relevant reminders to your patients about the services you offer and how much you care about their health are a great way to check-in throughout the year and make your patients feel as though their needs are always top-of-mind.
Anniversaries and Birthdays
Many of us like to offer a special thank you to our patients when they reach milestones in their treatment. By filtering by first appointment date, Unified Practice makes it easy to send anniversary and thank you emails to patients based on their visit history without having to input that information anywhere that isn’t HIPAA compliant.
Just like anniversaries, we love celebrating birthdays. Offering patients a free cupping service, a special discount, or just a gesture of gratitude helps our patients feel special on their special day. Just sort by birth month and create your campaign from there.
Practitioners joining or leaving, new services, hours, or locations, changes in cancellation policies or pricing are all examples of vital information to share with patients. Email updates about these changes are important and illustrate your dedication to communicating with your patients.
Seasonal Health Tips
As seasons and energies shift, seasonal changes are good opportunities to provide your patients with helpful tips and reminders on how to best care for themselves. This is also a great time to look at which patients haven’t been in for three-to-four months and encourage them to schedule a seasonal appointment.
At Unified Practice, you can create a list of patients based on the services they have or have not received at your clinic. Offering a discount on cupping to patients who’ve never had it or offering a gua sha package for your most regular customers, for example, create engagement and remind patients of the variety of ways you can be a part of their health and wellness.
Every three or six months, you can quickly create a list of patients who haven’t been in for a treatment in a while. Sending a quick note every few months provides regular opportunities for you to re-engage with existing patients.
Referrals, Reviews, Feedback
We all know the value of referrals and word-of-mouth. Asking patients to write a review or to let them know how much we appreciate referrals are fantastic ways to grow your clinic. If it seems daunting to ask for a referral or a review, remember that patients who have enjoyed their experience are, more often than not, happy to share the good word.
How do you plan on engaging with your patients in 2020? Any emails you’ve found to be successful that we missed here? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.
If you have questions about Unified Practice’s Constant Contact integration, please reach out! We recommend directing any questions you have about HIPAA to your state Acupuncture Association or a lawyer. The statements made here are not a replacement for legal advice.