Influencer marketing involves paying or otherwise compensating people to share their positive experiences with your prospective patients or customers. That compensation could be in the form of free products or special perks like extra access. It’s an influential local blogger writing about the great experience they had with you, the local celebrity endorsing your product, or the happy patient showing off before and after pictures at your website.
Obviously, you can’t normally share any information at all about your patients; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prevents this. However, your patients can share their own information.
The essential element for HIPAA-compliant influencer marketing is a HIPAA release. This is a written document giving you permission to share your patient’s experience and identifying information.
It must include the following elements:
- The specific personal health information to be disclosed
- To whom that information will be provided
- The purpose for which the information will be disclosed
- An expiration date or event
- The patient’s signature
This kind of form is most often used for things like giving a therapist permission to discuss a patient’s notes with a teacher. However, it is also the right kind of form for a plastic surgeon’s before and after pictures or using a patient’s Facebook testimonial on your website.
It must be a separate document. You cannot add that information to a model release, for example. You must have it in addition to a model release if you use a photograph.
The HIPAA release allows you to use those before and after photos, copy a patient review onto your website, or give an influencer products to write about. However, you still have to be vigilant.
Does the photo include any identifiable personal information about other patients? It’s easy to overlook information in the background of your photo.
Does a write-up include more PHI than was specified in the HIPAA release? Check for oversharing before approving a post.
And be sure that an influencer’s post doesn’t contain unsubstantiated claims or other trust issues. You’ve chosen someone who’s influential in their community, but they’re representing you.
Remember that HIPAA-compliant influencer marketing is advertising
If you’re selling pharmaceuticals, that influencer’s blog post is officially an ad. That means that you must follow the rules for advertising. You must include the name of the drug, along with the FDA-approved uses, and any risks associated with the drug.
Links from an influencer’s blog, Instagram account, and so forth should clearly be ads if any payment changes hands. That means you must identify the post as sponsored.
Influencer marketing can be effective for health and wellness organizations. It just takes some extra care.
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