Healthcare Marketing in 2024: The Guide to Ethical Advertising

Updated: March 22, 2024
healthcare marketing

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Medical brands must navigate a mountain of ethical issues when creating marketing strategies. Healthcare marketing involves delivering healthcare information across different channels, such as social media, SEO, paid ads, and websites. The goal is to promote certain medical services, focusing on outreach and patient education. 

Healthcare marketers walk a fine line, though. The information they convey must be customer-centered like any campaign but follow the rules of conduct that govern the industry. They must exhibit integrity in their content and avoid making promises that might give false hope to someone searching for a life-changing answer. That sets healthcare marketing apart from other industries. This guide to healthcare marketing discusses the ethical standards established and ways to ensure compliance with them. 

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    What Is Healthcare Marketing? 

    Healthcare marketing is a strategic approach to attracting healthcare consumers to use medical services. Like most marketing niches, it integrates an omnichannel approach that includes social media and other online and offline tactics to engage the target audience. 

    Healthcare marketers face challenges not seen in other industries, though. For one thing, they have unique limitations when targeting their audience. Often, their message focuses on an illness that might affect just a small percentage of the population or precise demographics. Compare that to furniture marketing, for example. That is an open field because everyone needs furniture. 

    At the same time, privacy regulations can limit the ability to target customers. For instance, a medical practice can’t tag all their customers with high blood pressure on social media to discuss a new medication. 

    Still, healthcare marketing has some real benefits.

    High-value service line expansion

    High-value service line expansion refers to attracting patients and physicians, driving revenue, and developing a successful balance of payment systems. That allows for the most significant potential for growth. 

    Developing high-value service lines is critical for health systems and hospitals. It allows them to optimize what can be limited resources. They can focus their marketing on the services that drive the most revenue. For example, a health system marketing campaign might target seniors because they tend to need services on a regular basis. They also have a stable payer system. 

    Competitive edge

    Healthcare is a competitive industry. It is difficult for medical businesses to grow without marketing strategies. Healthcare marketing allows health systems and medical practices to distinguish themselves in a saturated sector. 

    Competitive research and analysis is a fundamental marketing strategy. Healthcare marketers use it to assess the market, identify trends, and look at the strengths and weaknesses of similar organizations. By creating a list of primary and secondary competitors, marketers better understand what they offer patients and how they market to them. For example, a medical SEO competition analysis allows the marketer to see the strengths of the brands appearing at the top of the search rankings. 

    Patient engagement

    The best customer is the one who keeps coming back. That is true in most sectors. Engagement is the most effective way to build patient loyalty. Marketing helps create a personal connection that drives qualified leads and keeps them active. 

    By helping to improve patients’ health, medical brands also build their reputations within the industry. Word-of-mouth marketing is critical for hospital and treatment providers. Patients will talk about the care they receive, good or bad. It is that reputation that drives new patients to or from a healthcare provider. 

    HIPAA Guidelines for Healthcare Marketing

    Patient health information is tightly regulated. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) establishes parameters designed to keep sensitive medical details safe. This law extends to healthcare marketing, too. All ads must remain compliant with HIPAA regulations. 

    HIPPA defines protected health information (PHI) that must not be part of a marketing commercial or ad. PHI includes patients’:

    • Names
    • Addresses
    • Contact information
    • Medical records
    • Patient ID numbers
    • IPs

    The HIPPA Privacy Rule

    The HIPPA Privacy Rule establishes regulations designed to give people control over their health information in all things, including healthcare marketing. HIPPA defines healthcare marketing as an interaction between someone protected by a healthcare organization (covered entity) and an individual. The individual doesn’t have to be a patient, either. It could be someone who visits a website via ads. 

    The use of any PHI would require signed consent from the patient or caretaker. Without the signed authorization, PHI is off-limits. 


    A common practice in healthcare marketing is to use look-a-like audiences, but even that comes with regulations. To use this method, marketers must employ a HIPAA compliance marketing tool. Many of the mainstream marketing options do not meet this standard. 

    For a marketing tool to be HIPPA-compliant, it must have established security features, such as:

    • User authentication with unique log-in credentials
    • Access control that limits entry to sensitive data
    • Audit logs to ensure data is appropriately protected
    • End-to-end encryption to prevent unauthorized use

    Both the marketing agency and the service provider would have to sign HIPAA business associate agreements. This holds them legally responsible for compliance. 

    Healthcare marketing agency

    There are also specific rules an agency must follow for healthcare marketing services. To be HIPPA compliant, they must do self-audits and risk assessments and develop strategies to protect HPI and manage vulnerabilities. 

    HIPPA also requires annual employee training and implementation of all HIPAA policies. They must have a plan in place to track potential issues that might affect the security of PHI. 

    The 5 Ps of Health & Medical Marketing

    Medical marketing is complex, but there are tricks of the trade that can help you be successful with it. One such methodology is understanding the five Ps that help you master it. 


    Any medical marketing strategy should start with a clear definition of what you want to promote. What is the product you are promoting? By identifying the product, you can develop its selling points. 


    Know your target audience, the golden rule of all marketing. It applies in healthcare, as well. You have to be able to get to know your ideal customer and create profiles to understand how to reach them. 

    You would engage with a parent differently from how you might a Baby Boomer, for example. The aging population needs different medical services than a new parent, too. Know the person most likely to buy the product or service before creating a marketing strategy. 


    The third “P” is place, as in where the product is found. Is there a website that features it? That is going to be the most likely answer for most promotions. You can also set up new touchpoints for the product, especially if it is a competitive market. Look to see what rival brands are doing and take it one step further. 


    You also need to understand the price of the product. That will help you know whether to use that price as a selling point or not. Do some research to determine the average price of similar products and how this one compares. 


    Finally, it’s time to do some marketing. Once you clarify the other “Ps” on the list, you can use them to create an actionable strategy to promote the product or service. What channels will work best for the target audience? What places might they look to find that product? Use the information you have to answer these questions and establish your marketing goals. 

    5 Marketing Strategies for Healthcare Brands

    The regulations regarding healthcare marketing are tricky to navigate, but having a plan helps. Consider five marketing strategies tailor-made for healthcare brands. 

    1. Email Marketing

    Despite all the technological advances, email marketing remains a mainstay. It is well-suited for healthcare use because you can safely personalize the message, but still avoid PHI. Emails are a practical way to keep patients informed about developments that affect them or someone they love. 

    The downside is emails are also easy to ignore. Make sure you use some punchy headlines and patient-oriented messages to keep them engaged. 

    2. Texting

    Like emails, text messaging is an effective way to reach out to patients in an intimate way. They are also fast to write and read. Use them to inform patients about upcoming appointments or changes that might affect their healthcare journey. 

    Make sure not to make a nuisance of yourself, though. That will tempt them to block the number. Keep their messages on point. 

    If you want to expand on messaging, consider a messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. That will allow you to target a larger group with critical messages. For example, you might want to encourage patients to get a flu shot. 

    3. Blog

    Blogs are a win-win scenario. You can create content that targets your ideal patient or audience. At the same time, you improve SEO on critical subjects that impact your business. 

    For instance, a sports medicine practice could write a blog series about concussions in contact sports. This establishes the brand as an expert in the field, increases internet presence, and may answer critical questions for patients and local influencers like coaches. No matter what the industry, regular blog posts are good SEO. 

    4. Social media

    Think beyond just having and managing social media accounts. You could set up patient groups for nutrition or healthy living and invite patients to participate. Biopharm could also establish groups for patients on specific drugs for regular updates. 

    Also, invite patients to leave reviews on the business page after their visit or use of a service. That will help promote the brand to their friends and followers. A 2017 study published by BMC Research Notes found that 41 percent of healthcare consumers turn to social media when looking for providers. 

    If you go this route, make sure to update your pages multiple times a week. If they lay dormant, they are not of much use as marketing tools. Make use of data visualization on social media sites, too. Put images and multimedia to work to get your message across. 

    5. Use internal marketing

    Let your employees sing your praises. Encourage staff to tell the people they know about your services. When looking for a healthcare service or provider, it is common to ask a friend if they know someone. Some companies even offer employees referral plans, so they make money by marketing for you. 

    Streamline Your Healthcare Marketing Plan With the Content Cloud

    Healthcare marketing is time-consuming but necessary. You can streamline the process with Content Cloud. It’s a platform that lets you combine all your content marketing efforts in one easy-to-use space.

    By signing up for Content Cloud, you get it all on one platform:


    The best of all worlds when it comes to content creation, WriterAccess offers unique AI tools that help you strategize and ideate topics. Once you have the topic ready, you have access to some of the top human writing talent in the world. It offers all the benefits of AI combined with an actual human writer. 


    Stage is a program created by marketers for marketers. WordPress is the world’s top web content management system, but it can be difficult to use. Stage takes the hassle out of using WordPress. It makes it easy to create a fully optimized WordPress website without any technical knowledge. 


    Today’s consumer is looking for creativity that grabs their attention. Let’s face it. It’s a big ask. Ion helps you design creative experiences that will get your brand the attention it deserves. With Ion, you build personalized interactive content using a quick start template or with a bit of help from professionals.


    Studio is your one-stop collaboration tool that streamlines tasks and makes projects cohesive. It’s project management at its finest. 

    These four impressive tools come together under one Content Cloud. 

    Marketing is the key to business growth, but it is heavily regulated in the healthcare industry. Healthcare marketers must understand how to steer through HIPPA waters while promoting medical brands. It’s a skill set like any made more manageable with innovative tools like Content Cloud.  Learn more about Content Cloud by Rock Content today and get the perfect mix of human talent and technology.


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