HIPAA Compliant Healthcare Marketing and Ad Targeting

Healthcare Marketing Compliance Guidelines

In healthcare marketing, compliance is of the utmost importance. At Coegi, we work with many healthcare and pharmaceutical clients to continuously navigate this highly regulated industry. Continue reading to learn more about what it means to be a compliant and ethical healthcare marketer with this guide. 

Who sets the regulations for healthcare marketing compliance?

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without consent. However, when it comes to understanding HIPAA for healthcare advertising, there’s a lot of room for interpretation. This leaves many advertisers unsure if certain marketing capabilities are compliant and ethical. 

This is especially true for pharmaceutical advertisers using health information to target audiences for prescription drugs, medical devices, and other pharmaceutical products through media. To provide an industry standard, there are committees devoted to giving pharma advertisers direction – including  the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), and the National Advertising Initiative (NAI). 

The NAI is one of the leading bodies for defining healthcare marketing compliance regulations. Founded in 2000, the NAI published a set of codes for targeted advertising and online profiling that is supported by the U.S. FTC. The most recent revisions to the code provide media targeting best practices, including a definition for Sensitive Health Information to provide pharmaceutical advertisers with more concrete direction for targeting consumer populations.

How does HIPAA affect healthcare ad targeting?

The first step is understanding if your brand’s core consumer audience falls under the ‘sensitive’ category. This will impact targeting capabilities. According to the NAI, there are two subsets of sensitive information: 

  1. Data about a health condition or treatment derived from a sensitive source 
  2. Data about certain sensitive conditions regardless of the source of the data

The NAI only provides a few sensitive categories. These include drug addiction, STDs, mental health, pregnancy termination, cancer, and all conditions predominantly affecting children that are not treatable with OTC medications. For other health conditions, the NAI provides guidance to help determine whether pharmaceutical targeting segments are considered sensitive. However, this guidance does not offer a clear list of compliant targeting capabilities. 

One of our leading media buying partners, The Trade Desk (an NAI member), also has a healthcare targeting policy. Using its own multi-factor analysis process, it defines whether a condition is high, medium, or low sensitivity to determine allowable targeting capabilities. Coegi recommends using these guides to inform client conversations and recommendations when aligning on the brand’s own definition of sensitivity. 

How do you approach pharmaceutical targeting compliantly?

The goal is to aggregate enough compliant data about an individual to create a complete picture. This allows you to meet their needs accurately while preserving their privacy. Make sure pharmaceutical advertising campaigns are compliant by examining the data sources informing them. Look for two specific criteria:

  1. Consent: Guarantee the audiences reached provide the brand permission to market to them
  2. Deterministic data: Validated user information so marketers know they’re reaching a person who gave consent

Despite the challenges, pharmaceutical brands still have a variety of ways to target patients. We can use first-, second-, and third-party data and machine learning to identify relevant consumers who are likely to be receptive to receiving advertising from your brand.

Best Practices for HIPAA Healthcare Marketing Compliance

  • Ensure FDA and HIPAA compliance of campaigns including messaging and targeting with legal counsel.
  • Use de-identified information from third-party data providers for patient behavioral targeting.
  • Gain opt-in consent from users for sensitive health segment targeting and geo-targeting. 
  • Leverage data partners to reach HCPs on a 1:1 basis at scale. 

Healthcare Consumer Ad Targeting

Once you determine whether your target is in the sensitive or non-sensitive condition category, use the following tactics to reach healthcare and pharmaceutical consumers:

Modeled Targeting

Modeled targeting using de-identified information from third-party data providers is compliant according to the NAI. The NAI’s Guidance for Health Audience Segments quotes, “the use of offline marketing segments that are also modeled, not based on any user-level purchase, behavior, or activity, would also be considered non-sensitive.”

From a blog post by Yeehooi Tee of PulsePoint, not all audience models are created the same. It is critical to analyze data collection methods. There are key factors to understand when evaluating health data segments. These include the source of the seed data, modeling attributes, the seed-to-output ratio, and many others. 

Contextual Targeting

There are no regulations on using contextual targeting for a consumer audience. This is a popular approach for reaching patient and caregiver audiences in a compliant manner. 

Connected TV is a useful medium for contextual healthcare targeting. A TV ad for a specific health condition can feel less invasive, yet still relevant, using contextual targeting. With third-party data partners, personal information is de-identified for HIPAA-compliant CTV targeting.

Geo-Targeting

For both sensitive and non-sensitive conditions, geo-targeting a consumer audience requires the user’s opt-in consent to target by location data (like a clinic location). However, even with opt-in consent, there are still limitations for sensitive topics, such as reproductive health or addiction recovery, when it comes to location-based targeting. 

There are other forms of targeting patient audiences using geographic data. For example, using data partners, pharmaceutical brands can target programmatic buys to specific zip codes that over-index for a condition. Using anonymized provider prescription data, data can be matched to zip codes with the highest lift in specific prescriptions and even mapped to these households via IP addresses. This enables omnichannel online targeting to reach healthcare consumers through display, video, native, and social media channels. 

Condition-Based Targeting

We use third-party data providers to access unique condition-based healthcare segments. This anonymized data is not subject to some of the strict HIPAA guidelines, as it cannot be tied to personally identifiable records. This allows you to reach your relevant audience at scale with minimal media waste. 

Interest Targeting

Interest-based targeting can reach patients as well as caretakers with interest in a specific condition or topic. This expands reach to the key decision-makers in the healthcare process. The content consumers are reading or searching for online typically defines “Interest”. To engage these individuals as they are consuming relevant information, consider contextual targeting methods mentioned above. 

For more of my tips on the best strategies and channels for healthcare patient and provider targeting, view the video below:

Healthcare Provider Ad Targeting

Healthcare providers are relatively easier to target than patient segments due to publicly available information and fewer privacy restrictions. However, there can be challenges with achieving scale and managing higher costs. Regardless, brands can reach HCPs across the wide range of content they consume and the multiple devices they use.

Because you’re targeting by profession rather than a condition, there are fewer restrictions for HCPs. Let’s explore some of the most effective forms of compliant audience targeting for HCPs: 

ID-Based Targeting

ID-based targeting allows pharmaceutical brands to reach HCPs with a compliant audience-first approach. National Provider IDs are personal identifiers for specific healthcare providers, including their practice location and specialty. 

Utilizing this data set via demand-side platforms (DSPs) such as PulsePoint, MedData, CrossIX and HealthLink allows for compliant, one-to-one HCP targeting across multiple channels and devices.  Brands can target HCPs both by specific medical specialty or by an individual NPI number. 

Geo-Targeting

Brands can also use NPI numbers to target relevant practice locations for particular physicians or specialties. By targeting a geo-radius around point-of-care locations with high volumes of particular diagnoses or treatment types, brands can remain compliant with HIPAA and the NAI while also reaching the target audience. Another opportunity for geo-targeting physicians is geo-fencing industry conferences and events where large groups of professionals congregate.  

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting tools can look at categories, keywords, and tags on web pages to deliver highly relevant content to HCPs through programmatic channels. At Coegi, we map these to the National Library of Medicine MeSH Taxonomy to ensure the most relevant terminology is applied to our digital media. 

Rx and Dx Targeting

Through data partnerships, brands can target NPI numbers of providers who commonly prescribe certain prescription codes. Likewise, brands can target by diagnosis using ICD-10 codes to find their core HCP customers. 

Depending on each client’s goals, Coegi provides a recommended HCP targeting strategy. Even with fewer restrictions, we investigate and understand the source of the data segments associated with NPIs. 

For more on healthcare marketing compliance and best practices, read this Q&A article with more insights from myself and Pulsepoint’s Malcolm Halle or contact Coegi today. 

Connected TV: A New Frontier for Targeted Healthcare Marketing

Why is CTV a must-have for healthcare marketing?

In the ever-evolving world of digital advertising, marketers are constantly looking for the next opportunity and channel. Connected TV, in particular, is quickly gaining traction with a an increase in spending from $7.2B in 2021 to $9.39B in 2022. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Incremental reach
  • Segmentation & targeting
  • Positive consumer experience
  • Cost efficiency
  • High consumer engagement
  • Proven ROI & measurable outcomes 

Large entertainment and retail brands have been quick to implement CTV into their marketing plans. However, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors have been slower to adopt. This leaves a huge opportunity for brands to pave the way in an unsaturated and underutilized space. 

Reach Niche Healthcare Segments

Traditionally, linear TV has been a core method used to reach broad healthcare audiences, often with a “spray and pray” approach. By using 3rd-party data partners, such as PulsePoint, advertisers can identify highly specific and reliable healthcare patient and provider audiences while maintaining HIPAA compliance. One to one consumer matching is overlaid on top of CTV buys driving campaigns directly to the core audience. For niche consumer demographics, this audience-first approach reaches high-value, addressable segments without overspending on mass media buys.  The content relevancy then enhances the user experience by serving relevant content in an engaging, large screen format.

Build Incremental Reach Across Media Channels

High quality video content is the memorable media to engage pharmaceutical audiences. However, consumers are fragmented across various screens and platforms. Programmatic CTV allows health and pharma brands to reach audiences across channels, staying top of mind and driving incremental reach. CTV bundled with linear TV and other digital programmatic buys work together to reach unique audiences as well as meet consumers across channels in a non-invasive way. Cross-channel integration platforms, such as The Trade Desk, can ensure you are reaching the right audience with the appropriate frequency, avoiding any siloes or ad fatigue. 

You can read our CTV Advertising Best Practices Q&A with The Trade Desk here.

Drive Health-Focused Outcomes with Measurable Results 

At Coegi, data is the core of what we do. CTV brings that data-driven aspect to the former wild, wild west of television advertising. One of our subject matter experts in the healthcare and pharma space, Colin Duft, stated, “CTV for healthcare marketing is an untapped space eliminating barriers from a cost to market perspective. TV is now an accessible market for pharmaceutical players.”  With CTV measurement capabilities, advertisers can now validate this channel and pull detailed insights on campaign impacts. There is a greater ability to connect TV campaign results to business goals and outcomes. 

HIPAA Compliant Targeting & Consumer Trust

Healthcare advertisers are often deterred by privacy laws and concerns when it comes to targeting individuals or sensitive patient sectors. However, consumers are becoming more open and are even expecting personalization from brands. A recent study showed that after direct mail, TV and radio ads are the most highly trusted media formats for advertising.  A TV ad for a specific health condition can feel less invasive, yet still applicable and relevant.  With third-party data partners, personal information is de-identified for HIPAA compliant targeting. As an additional resource, the NAI provides this healthcare targeting guide to help determine whether targeting efforts or data segments are considered sensitive.

Implications for Healthcare Brands

  • The time is now for CTV 
    • This is an opportune time for health-focused brands to capitalize on the CTV space. Users are cutting the cord, building an increasing demographic of users only reachable through streaming TV.
  • Precision buying optimizes TV ad budgets
    • Replace bulk linear buys with efficiently targeted ad placements.
  • Measurable results empower brands
    • Gather advanced demographic information and data from CTV ads to optimize campaigns, creatives, and audience sectors.

View our full healthcare marketing guide to learn more.

Best Practices for Targeting in Pharmaceutical Campaigns

Who makes the rules?

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without consent. When it comes to understanding HIPAA for uses of health information for advertising, there’s lots of room for interpretation leaving advertisers unsure if certain marketing capabilities are compliant and ethical. This especially holds true for pharmaceutical advertisers using health information to target audiences for prescription drugs, medical devices and other pharmaceutical brands through media. To provide an industry standard and best practices, there are committees devoted to providing this direction to advertisers like the National Advertising Initiative (NAI), the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) and others. 

One of the leading bodies in defining the regulations for digital advertising is the NAI. Founded in 2000, the NAI published a set of code for advertisers to abide by that is supported by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The most recent revisions to the code enables advertisers to reference media targeting best practices according to the NAI, including a definition for Sensitive Health Information to provide pharmaceutical advertisers with more concrete direction.

How do regulations affect healthcare targeting?

The first step is to understand if the brand falls under the ‘sensitive’ category. This will impact targeting capabilities. According to the NAI, there are two subsets of sensitive information: 

  1. Data about a health condition or treatment derived from a sensitive source 
  2. Data about certain sensitive conditions regardless of the source of the data

Determining whether a health condition is considered ‘sensitive’ is unclear in the industry. The NAI only provides a few sensitive categories. These include drug addiction, STDs, mental health, pregnancy termination, and all conditions predominantly affecting children not treated by OTC and Cancer.

There are resources to help guide the analysis of determining whether the brand falls into the sensitive category. The NAI provides guidance to help determine whether pharmaceutical targeting segments are considered sensitive.

However, this guidance does not give advertisers a clear list of the targeting capabilities that are compliant. Coegi recommends using this guide to drive direct conversations with the client. It is useful to create a mutual agreement on whether the brand falls into either the sensitive category to influence compliant targeting solutions. 

There is no clear list provided by any regulatory source. So, Coegi recommends working with the client to align on the brand’s definition of sensitivity. This will greatly affect compliant targeting capabilities. 

The Trade Desk (a NAI member) also takes precautions and has a healthcare targeting policy. Because there is no official list deeming health conditions sensitive or non-sensitive, TTD has its own process. It defines whether a condition is deemed high, medium or low in the sensitive category  to then determine permitted targeting capabilities. This policy uses a multi-factor analysis to take into account many considerations when calculating each condition’s category. 

Other advertising platforms have similar protocols for brands in the healthcare space. Before running paid ads through Facebook, advertisers must gain permission according to its Promotion of Prescription Drugs policy.

How to Approach Pharmaceutical Targeting Compliantly

Once you determine whether the target is in the sensitive or non-sensitive condition category, use these tactics to target consumers: 

Healthcare Consumer Targeting:

Behavioral Targeting

  • This form of targeting is typically not a compliant way to reach a consumer given it’s ‘data about a health condition or treatment’. However, there are third party data providers who use de-identified information. This is compliant according to the NAI. 
  • It is critical to understand how any third party data is being collected if used to reach patients. Coegi does a detailed analysis to determine whether a data provider is compliant according to industry best practices. 

Contextual Targeting

  • There are no known regulations for using contextual targeting for a consumer audience. This is a popular approach in reaching a patient and caregiver audience in a compliant manner. 

Geotargeting

  • For both sensitive and non-sensitive conditions, geotargeting a consumer audience is not compliant. According to the NAI, unless the user’s opt-in consent is given to target by precise location data (like an HCP’s office), this falls outside of best practice.  
  • While precise location data requires opt-in, other forms of targeting that can reach a patient audience using geographic data. This data needs to be further vetted to ensure it’s not precise location data. 

Retargeting  

  • According to the 2020 code, retargeting is a form of Tailored Advertising. Sensitive health segments require opt-in consent in order to retarget a consumer audience. 
  • Even for non-sensitive health segments, Coegi recommends having a conversation with the brand team to gain alignment prior to execution.

Healthcare Provider Targeting

Because you’re targeting by profession, there are fewer restrictions for HCPs. ID-based targeting allows pharmaceutical brands to reach HCPs with a compliant audience-first approach.

Various forms of audience targeting for HCPs can include: 

  • Dx Targeting – ICD-10 code for specific diagnosis 
  • Rx Targeting – prescription code for specific drugs  
  • Specialty Targeting – target HCPs by specific medical specialty
  • List Match Targeting – target HCPs by specific NPI number

Depending on a particular client’s goals, Coegi will provide a recommended targeting strategy to reach a HCP audience 

Even with less restrictions, we recommends investigating and understanding the source of the data segments associated with NPIs. We have a conversation with the brand team to gain alignment on certain targeting efforts, especially retargeting.

Interested in learning more about pharmaceutical targeting marketing best practices? View our white paper to learn more on targeting patients and providers with best-in-class digital tactics.

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