Protected Health Information (PHI)


Protected Health Information (PHI) includes any piece of data that identifies a patient’s medical condition, doctors, treatments, or payments. As a result, it is essential that marketers understand what constitutes PHI, their role in protecting it, and best practices surrounding PHI.

What do marketers need to understand about PHI

Firstly, marketers need to understand that PHI belongs to the patient, and they have the right to decide how it is used. Hence marketers need to obtain consent from patients before using their PHI, and only use the data that patients have agreed to use. Additionally, marketers must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which regulates PHI guidelines, in their efforts when marketing health-related products or services. CMOs and marketing leaders must ensure their teams are knowledgeable and trained on compliance protocols surrounding the use of PHI.

Secondly, marketers must ensure that they protect patient’s PHI from anyone who doesn’t have the authority to access it such as hackers or cyber attackers. Thus, the hiring or outsourcing of an information security team are necessary, with their role being to monitor the safety of networks, databases, and other company systems holding PHI. Marketers must also keep in mind that printouts, laptops, or other portable electronic devices containing personal identifiable information (PII) must be adequately safeguarded from unauthorized access.

Moreover, CMOs must understand that PHI has implications beyond just potential privacy violations it also includes ethical considerations. Though marketers may use this data to target healthcare communication efforts, however, the overly aggressive marketing of health-related information may seem invasive or exploitative and potentially lead to the legal liability of the marketer. It is, therefore, crucial to obtain the patient’s explicit consent that outlines how their PHI will be used in marketing efforts.

Protected Health Information best practices

In addition to the potential ethical considerations, full transparency around PHI is an absolute best practice. It is essential to be forthright with patients on how their PHI will be utilized, who will be using it, and the necessary steps being taken to protect it. Being open and honest with patients can be compounded positively on targeted marketing efforts since data subjects are more likely to engage with and purchase from trusted brands.

Thus, marketers using PHI have the responsibility of knowing its regulations, seeking patient consent, protecting it, being transparent about its use, and addressing potential ethical consideration. This awareness of PHI importance and marketer responsibility will ultimately lead to sustained patient trust and provide patients with the assurance that their information is being used ethically. Marketers who understand PHI regulations, combined with transparency and consent, can take advantage of the personalization abilities that targeted marketing allows and maintain patient trust.


Freshpaint offers HIPAA-compliant tracking and CDP functionality


Article: Overcoming challenges in HIPAA-compliant marketing analytics

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