By John Lavey | Hammock President/COO

We’re all waking up to how much of our personal data is owned by other companies. We wanted the benefits and convenience offered by these online companies, but in the light of a new day, it doesn’t feel so good. Let’s just say that the hangover has set in.

What should healthcare marketers take away from this latest spike in attention to data privacy? Though news about data breaches is nothing new, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony last week following the mishandling of 87 million Facebook users’ accounts put a hot white light on the issue.

Amid Zuckerberg’s testimony came tough questions from members of Congress about healthcare data, and the presumption that our healthcare data should not be available or used by social media platforms without explicit consent.

Marketers must be vigilant in their desire to serve customers while not crossing the boundaries of healthcare privacy protections found in HIPAA and other regulatory guidelines. There are some obvious rules to follow, but there are more nuanced considerations, too.

The appearance of a loss of privacy can crop up when we see ads and content served up to us based on our own online behavior. Ads popping up in our timeline can make it feel like Facebook even knows what medications we take. Searches for information about an illness may lead to days of retargeted ads and sponsored content being served up endlessly, even if we’ve just been looking up information for someone else.

Bottomline: The overuse of targeting can lead to growing suspicion by individuals that too much of their privacy is being lost. Allowing people to control the specific types of information they receive from you may not only be the most effective marketing tactic, but in the future it also may be the only type of content allowed.


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