In general, HIPAA requires a written authorization from an individual before a health care provider can make a communication about a product or service that encourages recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service.  However, certain mailings and communications with individuals are permissible without having to obtain prior written authorization because they are not considered "marketing" as defined by the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

The following are a few examples of communications that HIPAA does not consider "marketing":

— Reminders (e.g., "get your annual pap" letter)
— Providing information about how to manage a particular condition (e.g., tips on diabetes control)
— General information about new developments in health care
— Information about health & wellness classes, support groups, health fairs etc.
— Announcements of a new specialty group or new medical equipment at your facility

Thus, even though many of us who receive such information in the mail consider such flyers to be at least loosely linked to the “marketing efforts” of the sender, HIPAA considers the foregoing to be “communications essential for quality health care.”  Such communications are not subject to HIPAA’s restrictions otherwise applicable to using patient health information for “marketing” purposes.  Thus, a written authorization is generally not required for a health care provider to mail such information to former or current patients.