Insights | Analytics & Insights

Navigating Privacy and Personalization in Healthcare Marketing through Technology

Is it possible to maintain data privacy while bringing improved personalization to healthcare marketing? Yes, with an enterprise data strategy enabled by API principles and an integration focus.

Holographic images of health care technology on iphone

Author: Brian Myers


While the healthcare industry faces intricate challenges when it comes to regulatory compliance and effective patient information management, they are no stranger to the increased expectations of the average consumer in our modern, tech-driven world. Patients now expect consistent communication from the businesses they engage with. For most industries, these communications are commonplace and relatively easy to implement, however healthcare providers and doctors face a unique struggle with compliance and information stewardship. 

Research indicates that well-executed healthcare marketing campaigns enhance patient experience, drive operational efficiencies, and boost patient engagement. These factors significantly influence health outcomes and contribute to the growth of healthcare organizations. 


Data Privacy Challenges in Healthcare Marketing 

The need for marketing automation in healthcare is critical for both doctor and patient. But the barriers between Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and care management systems and more customer-facing systems like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation can often feel as large as the divide between red and blue networks in the defense industry. Data segregation — keeping “patient” data in EMR and care management systems distinct from “customer” data in a CRM or Marketing Automation solution — is not just a best practice, but a critical compliance control.  

So how can we leverage information from one side of that segregation to the other?  

Even if the organization follows a best practice of treating all systems as HIPAA complaint, having a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with your marketing vendor does not give cover for adding protected health information (PHI) in marketing systems. Instead, we need to implement effective data security practices that create “security zones” and apply governance and technical controls when crossing security zone boundaries. This way, PHI remains safely at home in the EMR and personally identifiable information (PII) is protected in CRM.  

In this carefully compliant security world, how do we fulfill common marketing use cases? What if we want to wish happy birthday to our patients in their birth month? Or send an email suggesting scheduling a primary care visit to patients who are overdue?  

There are three components critical to enabling Marketing Automation in a HIPAA-regulated world. 




Patient Index or EMPI 

Large organizations often make use of an Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) to associate records across disparate healthcare information systems. By leveraging list of EMPIs we can associate groups of patients and traverse information security zones with low-sensitivity information rather than high.  

API Communication Across Zones 

Creating carefully managed and secured API calls creates both a mechanism for sending requests and receiving response, and a powerful mechanism for building and applying governance as technical controls. An API layer can be developed to allow only types of requests approved by compliance, considering additional security factors like where and from whom the request originates. And can respond back with nothing but patient index numbers, keeping high-sensitivity information safely left in the EMR or Data Warehouse.  

Patient Authorizations, Consents, and Preferences 

No patient marketing effort is safe without careful management of authorization to use the information the way we are using it, consent to send information by email or text message, and understanding of detailed patient preferences. Checking authorizations, consents, and preferences can be baked into the API response process, ensuring there are no “accidents” because customers who have not given the necessary permission never make it to the marketing automation platform in the first place. 


Healthcare Marketing in Action  


Consider the scenario of sending birthday wishes to patients with January birthdays. While simple on the surface, it runs into the same issue: how do we ensure regulatory compliance while accessing patient data? 

Fortunately, our security zone structure has a way to navigate this challenge. 

First, marketing automation initiates an API request for patients whose birthdays fall in January. This request accesses infrastructure within the PHI security zone and queries a data warehouse or EMR. The resulting payload contains only the EMPI numbers corresponding to these patients. 

The data then undergoes a secondary validation call to verify that the EMPIs belong to patients for whom we have appropriate permission to send birthday greetings. For organizations that store communication preferences in EMR (rather than a Customer Data Platform), an additional API call enriches the response payload with the preferred contact method for each patient. 


A diagram showing how a Data Lakehouse API can navigate the privacy and marketing concerns of healthcare data.


The information that emerges from the PHI zone consists of index numbers and a contact preference flag. This data is then prepared for use by a marketing automation solution to execute a campaign. 


In Conclusion 


Healthcare organizations find themselves in a delicate balance between complex legal requirements and their responsibilities to patients. On one side, there are stringent regulations, while on the other side, a modern customer base expects personalized and precisely targeted healthcare marketing messages.  

Constructing a cohesive data strategy to navigate these challenges not only meets the demands of digital marketing but also aligns with modern data practices and infrastructure, enabling essential business and clinical data management. 

Contact RevGen today to chat about how we can help build a solution that fits your privacy needs or visit our Analytics & Insights page to learn more.


A headshot of Brian Myers Brian Myers is a Senior Architect at RevGen who focuses on building comprehensive solutions across enterprise application portfolios with an emphasis on data and data integration. Brian has substantial experience in healthcare organizations both as an employee and a consultant. 

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