Retargeting is one of the most effective strategies in digital advertising, but is it right for you? Your practice is subject to HIPAA compliance requirements, so the short answer is no. But please allow us to offer some workarounds.

What Is Retargeting?

Wouldn’t it be great if all the people who visit your website scheduled an appointment at the end of their first visit (assuming you had the capacity to see them all)? That’s not how it works, though; few website visitors will make an appointment, compared to your total number of visitors. It’s like that in other industries as well—according to software company Marketo, about 96 percent of website visitors aren’t ready to buy.

Companies want to stay top-of-mind with these web visitors and have them come back when they are ready to spend their money (or, in your case, when they need medical care). Retargeting is one possible solution.

Retargeting—also known as remarketing—uses little snippets of code called pixels that insert other pieces of code called cookies into a website visitor’s browser. When the visitor leaves the website, that cookie tells Google and other remarketing platforms to serve them ads from the website publisher.

What’s the Problem?

Retargeting is great for many industries, but healthcare is one of the exceptions. Why? Protected health information. It’s best illustrated with an example.

A man is having pain in the lower left quadrant of his abdomen. He searches for diverticulitis on Google and your practice’s condition page comes up. He clicks, reads it, leaves the website and gets up from his computer. Then his wife sits down and she’s served up a Google Ad about getting her gastrointestinal pain diagnosed with a colonoscopy from your medical practice.

What you’ve done is basically disclosed protected health information about a medical condition (one that necessitates a colonoscopy) to an unauthorized third party. You have no control over and no way of knowing who is using a given browser when you add that cookie and retarget your ad.

What Do the Ad Networks Say?

If that wasn’t a HIPAA violation, it would still be a violation of Google’s terms of service. Google generally errs on the side of caution, and says retargeting is prohibited for:

“Personal health conditions, health issues related to intimate body parts or functions, and invasive medical procedures. This also includes treatment for health conditions and intimate bodily health issues.”

Google defines health content as:

  • physical or mental health conditions, including diseases, chronic conditions, and sexual health
  • health condition-related services or procedures
  • products for treating or managing health conditions, including over-the-counter medications for health conditions and medical devices
  • long or short-term health issues associated with intimate body parts or functions, including genital, bowel, or urinary functions
  • invasive medical procedures, including cosmetic surgery
  • disabilities, even when content is oriented toward the user’s primary caretaker

So What Can I Do?

Is all that data collected by the pixel useless? No. There are some ways you can use that data.

First, you actually can retarget people who have visited your website, but you have to do it in a generic fashion. You can’t advertise a particular treatment or any specific conditions. The safest way is to send the people who click on the ad to your home page or a nonspecific landing page.

You can also use that data in other ways. One of our favorites is to create a lookalike audience and serve ads to them. Ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads take the data you’ve collected and use artificial intelligence to build an audience of people with many of the same characteristics as those website users whose data you’ve collected with your pixels.

Since this audience looks like the retargeting list you’d build if you could, it’s going to be very effective at targeting highly engaged prospects. And, since it’s not one-to-one retargeting it’s completely above-board.

Finally, although we don’t recommend it, you can try remarketing anyway. Use an ad platform rather than Google, and accept that you might need a lawyer instead of a marketing agency.

If you’re interested in running ads on the up-and-up, contact Points Group today. Our digital marketers are versed in both the cutting-edge and established pay-per-click technologies and tactics. We’ll even throw in a free website assessment. Call today.

Our Partners

facebook marketing partner
google partner
shopify logo
hubspot partner program

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

@ 2023 Points Group / All Right Reserved

This Privacy Policy governs the manner in which Points Group, LLC collects, uses, maintains and discloses information collected from users (each, a “User”) of the website (“Site”). This privacy policy applies to the Site and all products and services offered by Points Group, LLC.


We may collect personal identification information from Users in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, when Users visit our site, subscribe to the newsletter, respond to a survey, fill out a form, and in connection with other activities, services, features or resources we make available on our Site. Users may visit our Site anonymously. We will collect personal identification information from Users only if they voluntarily submit such information to us. Users can always refuse to supply personal identification information, except that it may prevent them from engaging in certain Site related activities.


We may collect non-personal identification information about Users whenever they interact with our Site. Non-personal identification information may include the browser name, the type of computer and technical information about User’s means of connection to our Site, such as the operating system and the Internet service providers utilized and other similar information.


Our Site may use “cookies” to enhance User experience. User’s web browser places cookies on their hard drive for record-keeping purposes and sometimes to track information about them. User may choose to set their web browser to refuse cookies, or to alert them when cookies are being sent. If they do so, note that some parts of the Site may not function properly.


Points Group, LLC may collect and use Users personal information for the following purposes:

  • To improve customer service
  • Information you provide helps us respond to your customer service requests and support needs more efficiently.
  • To personalize user experience
  • We may use information in the aggregate to understand how our Users as a group use the services and resources provided on our Site.
  • To improve our Site
  • We may use feedback you provide to improve our products and services.
  • To run a promotion, contest, survey or other Site feature
  • To send Users information they agreed to receive about topics we think will be of interest to them.
  • To send periodic emails
  • We may use the email address to respond to their inquiries, questions, and/or other requests. If User decides to opt-in to our mailing list, they will receive emails that may include company news, updates, related product or service information, etc. If at any time the User would like to unsubscribe from receiving future emails, we include detailed unsubscribe instructions at the bottom of each email.


We adopt appropriate data collection, storage and processing practices and security measures to protect against unauthorized access, alteration, disclosure or destruction of your personal information, username, password, transaction information and data stored on our Site.


We do not sell, trade, or rent User’s personal identification information to others. We may share generic aggregated demographic information not linked to any personal identification information regarding visitors and users with our business partners, trusted affiliates and advertisers for the purposes outlined above. We may use third party service providers to help us operate our business and the Site or administer activities on our behalf, such as sending out newsletters or surveys. We may share your information with these third parties for those limited purposes provided that you have given us your permission.


Users may find advertising or other content on our Site that link to the sites and services of our partners, suppliers, advertisers, sponsors, licensors and other third parties. We do not control the content or links that appear on these sites and are not responsible for the practices employed by websites linked to or from our Site. In addition, these sites or services, including their content and links, may be constantly changing. These sites and services may have their own privacy policies and customer service policies. Browsing and interaction on any other website, including websites which have a link to our Site, is subject to that website’s own terms and policies.


Points Group, LLC has the discretion to update this privacy policy at any time. When we do, we will revise the updated date at the bottom of this page. We encourage Users to frequently check this page for any changes to stay informed about how we are helping to protect the personal information we collect. You acknowledge and agree that it is your responsibility to review this privacy policy periodically and become aware of modifications.


By using this Site, you signify your acceptance of this policy. If you do not agree to this policy, please do not use our Site. Your continued use of the Site following the posting of changes to this policy will be deemed your acceptance of those changes.


If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, the practices of this site, or your dealings with this site, please contact us at:

Points Group, LLC

150 Morristown Road, Suite 220

Bernardsville, NJ 07924

This document was last updated on July 24, 2014