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Following These Simple Strategies Will Keep You HIPAA-Compliant

Here are some best practices in four key categories.

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MILLIONS OF AMERICANS search online for healthcare information, so digital marketing is crucial to your growth. But digital media treads a thin line between connecting with patients and violating HIPAA regulations. Here are some best practices to ensure your digital strategies are HIPAA compliant:

Website

Data on any forms provided on your website must be encrypted. Do this by using an EHR for communicating with patients, or installing an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate on your server. Your server should have antivirus protection, a firewall, offsite backup, OS patch management and encrypted server data. Lastly, you must have an up-to-date privacy policy written on your site.

Social Media

Social media is particularly risky. You have to ensure that outgoing messages refrain from disclosing personal health information (PHI) but you may also have people reaching out with medical queries. The rule of thumb is to treat non-patients like patients and protect their PHI in the same way. 

Keep public answers general. Avoid engaging in discourse about specific treatments, conditions or experiences and invite parties to call you. Keep in mind that personal identifiers go beyond a name and a face and can include a date, location, contact information or any other identifiable numbers or information. Keep personal accounts separate from office ones and ensure all staff are trained.

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Email

General email marketing is not problematic but when a patient or potential patient emails your office, keep responses generic and invite them to call the office. Recommend that personal information not be disclosed via email.

Online Reviews

If a patient offers PHI in the public sphere, this doesn’t mean they consent to you confirming their status as a patient. If a patient reviews your practice online, do not confirm their patient status in your response. Nevertheless, it’s important to respond to reviews. In the case of a negative review, reply that your office takes customer satisfaction seriously and invite the reviewer to call the office.

Keep in mind that in the digital media age, correspondence is easy, public and in many cases, permanent (meaning it can’t be deleted or erased). It’s also very easy for PHI to inadvertently be exposed.  Make it an office policy to keep any specific correspondence to secure networks, phone or in-person communication. Lastly, encourage your staff to stop and ask if they are unsure about how to proceed.

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Nancy Rausman is managing editor at EyeCarePro, providing ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing. EyeCarePro is one of the leading providers of online marketing and practice improvement services in the optometric industry. Contact her at nancy@eyecarepro.net.

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Know Your Niche

Otherwise you may end up compromising.

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Know your niche as a retailer and stay true to that niche. Don’t try to meet everyone’s needs – if you try you will compromise somewhere else. – Carter Johnston, OD, Physicians Optical Luxury Eyewear, Oklahoma City, OK

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The Best Call to Actions to Convert Visitors to Patients

CTAs are probably the most important part of your marketing or campaign strategy.

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HERE’S A RIDDLE for you … what can be as simple as two words but is the key to bringing new patients in your door? The answer is: a CTA or call to action.

A good CTA will keep your phone ringing, fill up your appointment calendar and turn your website visitors into new patients. So, what exactly is this magic little phrase and what makes a good one?

What is a CTA?

A CTA is phrase that instructs or encourages a user to take a specific action, such as booking an appointment, signing up to a mailing list, calling the office, or getting more information about a promotion. It can (and should) be used in basically any form of marketing from your website, to a landing page, to a Facebook promotion, email or even a radio ad.

Each element of your marketing is designed for one ultimate purpose — to bring in appointments and optical sales — and if you fail to include a CTA, you risk losing potential patients who may delay or not otherwise take the next step toward that goal.

Making the call to your office or action easy and quick reduces lag time and drop off rates.

So, what makes a good CTA? A good call to action makes it very clear what action you want visitors to take and gives them the tools they need to do so. The best CTAs address the what, when and why of taking the next step and usually have the following traits:

WHAT: They use action verbs to direct conversion such as: “Call our office, Fill-out an appointment form, Book an appointment, Contact us, Visit our office etc.” The best CTAs are those that include the words that would follow the phrase, “I would like to…”

WHEN: They use time-sensitive wording such as, “Today, Now, Don’t Delay etc.”

WHY: They are often benefits-oriented, answering the question of why one should take the action: “Take care of your precious eyesight, Save time and money, etc.”

They stand out using bright colors and bold text. They are clear and easy to spot, and they are most effective when placed in the header and/or at least above the fold. They should also show up prominently on both desktop and mobile devices. And in case you’re wondering, circle buttons stand out more and work better than rectangles.

They are easy to use. Nowadays, clickable buttons, especially on mobile friendly sites, are the way to go. If your visitor can click a CTA button on your site and schedule an appointment or call your office directly, you’ve eliminated almost every obstacle. What could be easier? We recommend a CTA attached to an embedded online scheduler when possible that allows patients to instantly see your availability and book an appointment.

Now there’s one catch… there is such a thing as too many CTAs on a page. You don’t want to overdo it. Think top, bottom, and once in the middle is ‘enough’, they’re easily accessible and they get the job done.
The next time you’re working on your website or scheduling a promotion, stop and think about your CTAs. They are probably the most important part of your marketing or campaign strategy.

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Danielle Richardson

Feel Like Your Wellness Routine Could Be Missing Something? It’s Probably Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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WHEN YOU THINK OF your health and wellness, how often do you think of sleep? Chances are not often — but you should. Sleep is the newest frontier in wellness as public health consciousness continues to increase and we move to a more holistic idea of health. We spend nearly 1/3 of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The National Sleep Foundation defines quality sleep as occurring when you’re asleep within 30 minutes of laying down, wake no more than once, and sleep for at least 85 percent of the night. Unfortunately, quality sleep is an uncommon occurrence as the CDC reports a third of American adults experience poor or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems or disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. As a country, we need to get some rest!

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and triples the risk for type 2 diabetes according to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick Finan, PhD. Those not getting adequate sleep suffer from a weakened immune system, irregular metabolism, and obesity secondary to increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Not limited to just the physical body, sleep deprivation can also manifest as cognitive impairment and/or mental health changes including depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog. Poor quality sleep is far less recuperative, which causes us to not feel rested when do we wake up.

Sleep depends on a number of factors, our body’s internal regulating system is chief among them. Our Circadian Rhythm functions as the body’s biological clock and regulates the experience of alertness vs. sleepiness. This rhythm is sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol peaks in the morning allowing us to be alert and focused throughout the day. The secretion of melatonin — which helps us sleep — is highest at night.

These days, our minds are moving a mile a minute and we’re constantly on light-producing digital devices even though increased high-energy blue light exposure from devices decreases melatonin production and causes insomnia or sleeplessness. The disrupting culprits aren’t limited to devices though; increased stress, irregular work schedules, frequent jet lag, and sleep disorders can also disrupt our cycles.

The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of quality sleep for adults and more for teens and children. Here are some easy ways you can get better sleep tonight:

Build Consistency. It’s important to wake and head to bed around the same time each day — even on the weekends.

Use Sleep Monitoring Technology. Smartphones and wearable tech devices can help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep through downloadable applications and Bluetooth technology.

Sleep Habits. Limit screen time and diminish light sources in the bedroom. Additionally, use the automatic setting on your phone to warm the screen at night.

Bonus — Zen Out! Use essential oils or pillow sprays in scents like lavender as aromatherapy to help you sleep. Also consider meditation, light music, or other soothing sounds as a relaxing way to send yourself to bed.

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