Not HIPAA Critical

Happy New Year!

In the New Year your blood collection agency has new goals, new ideas, and hopefully a new invigorated spirit. My motto this year in my personal life is “Don’t set a resolution, start a revolution.” I am using this year to really maximize the talent and assets I have to up my game and I encourage you to do the same.

This in mind, let’s get this year started with a bang. I am going to give you a very easy tip to boost your marketing impact and help you become more connected and transparent with your donors in 2014. Oh and the best part of all is that the amount of money it is going to cost you to begin putting this tip into practice is $0.

No doubt if you are on the management team at your blood bank or agency the title of this post caught your attention, as it should! HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules and compliance are very serious issue in the medical field and knowing when you can and cannot use people’s information could cost you a lot of money. Check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website for more information on this law.

What you need to know most is this, Title II of HIPAA lays out guidelines for maintaining “privacy and security of individually identifiable health information”. You will understand the importance of this and why it is applicable as you read on and keep this in mind as I go through the aforementioned tip.

2014 Tip to Try

Actually use your E-mail database

Odds are you’re already doing this, eligibility emails, thank you emails, and the usual day to day blood drive alert emails in your area, but you could be using your database to do much more. For example by pre-staging them to occur monthly or annually you will be able to let it run itself while also, as Scott Stratten recommends in his book UNMARKETING “respecting your donors inboxes” and prevents you from winding up in the JUNK folder.

Opportunities to practice:

Happy Birthday emails – you already have their birthdays in your collected donor information in your database, and an email, while simple will be opened and appreciated. The same goes for the annual holiday season’s greetings in December. Think about Ron Popeil’s Ronco® Rotisserie as I implore you to “Set it and forget it”.

But the real reason I mention this tip is based on an initiative I put into place at my blood collection agency that literally changed our marketing impact overnight and it was so simple! We sent an email to every donor in our database that introduced our “NEW” Facebook page, a page we had had for a year which was making little impact. After sending the email asking the donors to “like” our Facebook page we received 700 “likes” over night and by week’s end we had 1,200 new “likes” in total.  Each year new donors start donating and high school kids will be joining you donor pool. If they have never experienced your brand online you can get a large number of them to click the “like” button. After the big push we did an email to first time donors in January of the following year and the results were smaller but still promising with around 200 new “likes”.

I hope I don’t have to explain how Facebook works but when we were on 200 timelines in one day with messages that read “John Smith liked Blood Group X” it was hard to ignore, especially in a small community, like a high school, a significant amount of your classmates were making the choice to like one group.

So once you have the “likes” and followers, the HIPAA law comes into play. For example our blood collection agency works with hospitals and would often get patient information about a car accident, difficult pregnancy, or cancer patients that drained the blood supply. Messaging our donors was great way to get them in but what information you put in that post could land you in serious hot water. You want donors to donate and you need a compelling story to get them to do so.

HIPAA-Cartoon-2HIPAA Fail

“John Smith need our help, he was in a car accident on Main Street and is losing blood. Donors can help as doctors prepare him for surgery at Springfield Hospital this afternoon”

The problem is if a person wanted to find Mr. Smith or contact him they probably could based on that information and Mr. Smith and his family would have a very real invasion of privacy and HIPAA lawsuit on their hands.

HIPAA Success

“NEWS Alert: As reported on local news a four car pile up has sent numerous people to hospitals with which we supply blood. If you are able to donate today please help us ensure blood is available for those effected.”

Little more vague but it definitely tells a story and doesn’t violate Mr. Smith’s privacy.

Public information and information willingly and publicly given by your donors does not violate HIPAA. If a donor posts to your page “donating blood in honor of my mom who is fighting cancer” that is now public information and is a really great opportunity to reach out and encourage them to share their story.

In a future post I will tell you how I helped create an ad campaign for sickle cell anemia based on a patient reaching out on our social media pages that became part of an NBA team’s community outreach program and rallied their fan base to host a drive. Oh, and this patient was also four months pregnant.

Check back next month to see what’s going on in the wonderful world of blood collection advertising and marketing. I will be covering the sickle cell patient in a future post but also I look forward to sharing an interview with you I did with the self-proclaimed, “ walking talking platelet factory” and after you hear his story you may be inclined to agree with him.

Compatriot for (HIPAA) Compliance, Mentor for Marketers

B.C. Thomas


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