Navigating the Digital Landscape: Hospital Marketers Win in the Latest Ruling on HHS Online Tracking and HIPAA

Learn how the recent court ruling empowers hospital marketers to use web technologies without fear of non-compliance and how to stay vigilant as the case progresses.

In a victory for healthcare marketers, a United States District Court Judge in Texas recently ruled in favor of the American Hospital Association (AHA) and other hospital plaintiffs, vacating the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) online tracking bulletin as unlawful and beyond the agency's authority. This decision paves the way for hospitals and health systems to confidently use third-party web technologies to enhance their online presence and connect with their communities.

At Coker, we understand that healthcare marketers  always strive to find innovative ways to reach their audiences effectively. We share and support your goal of ensuring that healthcare organizations can leverage modern marketing tools without undue regulatory constraints.

Situations like this ruling are where Coker's HIPAA expertise and guidance becomes crucial while navigating digital compliance changes.

Understanding the Impact of the Judicial Ruling on the HHS Bulletin

The March 2024 Revised Bulletin from HHS had placed restrictive measures on healthcare providers, limiting their ability to use standard third-party web technologies that capture IP addresses. This restriction hindered hospitals' and health systems' ability to analyze website traffic and share critical health information with the public.

The court's decision to vacate this bulletin acknowledges the importance of these technologies in modern healthcare marketing and ensures that providers can continue to use them without fear of non-compliance.

Judge Mark Pittman's ruling highlights that the core issue was not about HIPAA itself but rather about the extent of HHS's authority.

By declaring the bulletin unlawful, the court reaffirmed that hospitals must be able to use essential web technologies to meet HIPAA requirements while effectively engaging with their communities.

Monitoring Future Developments in Online Marketing for Healthcare

It's important to note that this ruling currently applies only within the Texas district where it was issued. Healthcare marketers should closely monitor this case as it progresses through higher courts and as other jurisdictions address similar issues.

The current ruling is a positive step, but staying informed about further legal developments is crucial to ensure ongoing compliance and strategic planning.

“Will the Office for Civil Rights and the Federal Trade Commission be walking back their joint letter to hospitals and telehealth providers cautioning them that their use of web trackers such as Google Analytics and Meta Pixel?"

"And how does this impact data privacy class action lawsuits related to the use of web tracking technologies,” asks Coker’s Senior Compliance Manager DeAnn Tucker, MHA, RHIA, CHPS, CHPC, CCS.

How the Ruling Impacts New Mover Marketing Programs for Hospitals

One of the key areas where this ruling has a profound impact is in New Mover Marketing Programs. As highlighted by Creative Marketing Programs Kansas City (CMPkc), these campaigns are among the most cost-effective marketing strategies.

New movers, who are establishing new purchasing habits, are a prime audience for healthcare services. CMPkc has demonstrated that targeting new movers, especially those relocating from a significant distance, can yield high returns on investment while contributing to services growth.

New movers to a community are likely seeking new healthcare providers, making them an ideal target for hospital marketing campaigns. By using IP addresses to target new movers online, healthcare marketers can ensure their messages reach the right audience at the right time as new residents may be attempting to access care for the first time in their new neighborhood.

Now that the March 2024 Revised Bulletin from HHS has been repealed in Texas, programs like this that utilize IP addresses to introduce healthcare services to new movers may continue.

“Campaign measurement is a critical component of any new mover outreach,” says CMPkc Vice President Tom Wiser. “Today’s healthcare marketers demand campaign metrics for every tactic in a campaign. Google Analytics, while not the only website measurement option, is the most widely utilized by hospital webmasters. At CMPkc, we monitor campaign analytics so we can optimize campaigns. We will be better positioned to assist clients by having easy and affordable access to website monitoring tools.”

New Mover Marketing Combines Online and Offline Marketing

The strategy of combining direct mail with digital marketing technologies showcases the power of an integrated approach in patient recruitment. Digital display ads, pre-roll videos, and over-the-top (OTT) videos, when combined with imagery-consistent direct mail, create a comprehensive campaign that surrounds new movers with consistent messaging.

This holistic approach enhances brand awareness and consumer engagement as it helps healthcare providers connect more effectively with their new community members.

“Hospital marketers have long turned to their internal legal and compliance teams to ensure the various ways they engage their target audiences are appropriate,” Wiser says.

“In a time of changing regulations, hospitals and healthcare organizations should most definitely seek professional help to navigate the changing regulatory environment.”

The Role of Coker in Ensuring Compliance

While the court's decision is a significant win, ensuring compliance with HIPAA and other regulations remains crucial. At Coker, we specialize in guiding healthcare organizations through the complexities of HIPAA compliance, especially in patient communication programs.

Our expertise ensures that your marketing strategies not only adhere to legal requirements but also maximize their effectiveness.

Ask Coker

We'd love to hear what your questions are on this topic!

Contact us today for a complimentary answer to your question on HIPAA compliance and to learn how you can leverage new mover marketing programs to their fullest potential.

For more HIPAA and healthcare marketing advice, we warmly invite you to join the Coker newsletter.


  1. Judge rules in favor of AHA vacating HHS online tracking ‘bulletin’ as unlawful and beyond agency authority. AHA News. June 20, 2024. Available at:
  2. Creative Marketing Programs Kansas City. New Mover Marketing Program. Available at:

Related Insights