As a medical doctor, state and federal regulations may apply to advertisements of your services. It is important that you and your marketing crew understand the limits placed on physician marketing and advertising by regulation.
1. Avoid Making False or Misleading Statements About:
- Your training, experience, or board certification
- Cost of services advertised
- Patient testimonials, endorsements, and images
- Promising specific results and claims of superiority
2. Carefully Respond to Patients’ Negative Online Comments & Reviews
- Respond to patients’ negative comments with care and sensitivity and in a manner that does not discount the patient’s perception of the events that lead to the negative comment.
- Do not confirm or deny the individual posting is a patient, and keep the response generic to avoid violating any federal or state privacy and confidentiality laws.
- Example Response to online negative comments:
“The practice strives for all patients to have a positive experience and encourages anyone who has had a negative experience to contact the practice directly to see what, if anything, can be done to ensure the patient is satisfied with services in the future.”
- If contacted by a representative from the Better Business Bureau relating to a patient complaint:
- Do not attempt to refute the patient’s claims by providing details about the patient’s treatment. You should not even confirm or deny that the patient is a client at your office. This could violate the patient’s privacy.
- State that: “the practice is subject to a variety of privacy and confidentiality laws and thus does not provide information to refute or accept responsibility for the claim nor will it confirm whether or not the individual was even a patient of the practice.”
- Ask the representative to ask the person who filed the complaint to directly contact the practice so that it can address their concerns and provide a contact number.
3. Understand Social Media Advertising and Marketing Rules
- Be cognizant of audience targeting methods which may breach physician-patient relationship (e.g., Facebook Custom Audience targeting method).
4. Maintain Proper and Necessary Documentation
- Keep a copy of advertisements (electronic ads or print media). If auditory advertisement (e.g., podcast or radio ads) keep a recording if possible or a written record of the dialogue.
- Retain information about ad placement (e.g., name of periodical, radio station, payment for ad, date of publication).
- Maintain screen shots or other documentation of website content and changes, especially if the content of the website touches federal and state laws relating to false, deceptive or misleading statements. Documentation may be required by some state law.
- Obtain and maintain written valid patient consents and authorizations for posting patient testimonials or photos.
5. Know Advertising and Marketing Rules of the State Boards and Professional Organization
- For example, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on Ethics Opined:
- It is ethical for physicians to market their practices;
- Advertisements must be truthful and not deceptive or misleading;
- Advertisements must not convey discriminatory attitudes;
- physicians are responsible for advertisements that are undertaken by hospitals on the physician’s behalf;
- Advertising that seeks to denigrate the competence of other individual professionals or group practices is always unethical;
- all paid advertisements must be clearly identified as such and not disguise the advertisement as part of a news program;
- physicians must be able to substantiate all claims made in advertisements;
- Physicians should consider not just the intent of any advertisement but also its effect on the public’s view of the profession; and
- statements ranking the competence of physicians and quality of services usually are not supportable and if used, the advertisement must describe how the ranking was established.
- Review and Understand Payor Guidelines on Advertisement and Marketing
- For example, Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) publishes marketing guidelines for physicians who serve Medicaid beneficiaries:
- HHSC prohibits use of marketing materials to promote a practice if those materials are not intended for educational purposes and requires the materials be written at or below a 6th grade level.
- HHSC also prohibits the use of marketing materials to offer an inducement (e.g., a giveaway) or anything designed to influence the choice of provider and it prohibits any giveaways worth more than $10 individually.
7. Do not Use Competitors Name or Trademark in Ads without Permission
Stay away from using your competitors name or trademark without their permission in your promotional and advertising documents. This is to make sure you do not write anything that would be considered liable under defamation laws or use the trademark in an impermissible way under the intellectual property laws.
8. How to Find A Physician Marketing & Advertising Lawyer?
You need a healthcare attorney who is experienced in your line of work and industry. Because of the complex nature of health laws, even healthcare attorneys specialize in different niches and an attorney which specializes in federal payer reimbursement does not necessarily understand issues relating to concierge medicine! So, it is difficult to actually find a healthcare attorney that provides the exact services that you require in the type of practice that you have.
Consider using the Perla search platform which allows you and your healthcare business to find qualified experts and advisors with experience and knowledge in the healthcare industry, such as a healthcare attorney.
Perla is a private networking platform that connects healthcare professionals and businesses directly with healthcare attorneys with the exact experience you are looking for. You can search Perla’ Network of Healthcare Advisors quickly and for FREE. So, get started in your FREE search today by visiting our website to find a qualified healthcare attorney with experience in advising physicians about marketing and advertising their services to patients in their states!