Posted on 03/20/2017 in Medical Ethics

Physicians' Ethical Ways to Market a Practice

Physicians' Ethical Ways to Market a Practice

Physicians, Gynecologists and medical societies have from time to time raised concerns that promoting the practice of a physician commercializes medical practice which undermines the dignity of the medical profession.

The expectations have been that physicians would engender referrals from their fellow physicians and also from their satisfied patients due to the excellent medical care they provide to them. Thus, previously, a few state and national professional medical societies banned advertising in their code of ethics and consider it as illegal.

However, the United States Supreme Court in 1982 declared a ruling that favored the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) resolve that the ban on advertising presented in the American Medical Association’s code of ethics was an unlawful control of competition.

The FTC disputed that all businesses and professionals have the right to let the public know what services they offer and that all consumers are entitled to make informed decision based on the facts presented in the advertising. The reason behind this opinion of the committee is to make available objective criteria to assist members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists establish the ethical nature of any advertisement or marketing procedure.

The result of this judgment entails; it is ethical to market the practice of a physician in so far as the communication is honest, not delusional, deceptive or unreliable. The advertisement content must not discriminate against sex, race, ethnic background, gender; or sexual orientation.

If the physician plans to make use of paid advertising, he must state it in the advertising. Generating fair and correct advertising for medical practices and services is a bit taxing. Nevertheless, any advertising that is intended to disparage the competency of other individual professionals or group practices is unethical.

While considering the marketing practices that should be deemed suitable and ethical, physicians ought to estimate not only their actions but as well actions that are taken by other hospitals, clinics or health centers that act on their behalf.

To ensure that these ethical practices are maintained, the committee on Ethics recommends the following and makes the ensuing conclusions:

It is not unethical for physicians to market their practices. However,

Any form of advertisement undertaken by a physician while marketing his or her practices must be based on truth. It must not be misleading or falsified. 

The marketing and advertisement procedure undertaken must not be discriminatory.

Advertising must not degrade the competency of other individual professionals or group practices. Any such advertising procedure is considered unethical.

Physicians may make use of paid advertising but where they are used, they should clearly be declared as such.

While the physician has an intention for the advertisement, this should not be the only driving factor. They should at the same time consider the effect of the advertisement on the general public and how the advertisement impact on their view of medical profession.

Which form of advertising platform is suitable for marketing the services of a physician?

The FTC states that physicians ought to be allowed to publicize their services through advertising to help the public to obtain medical services. A medical doctor ought not to be restricted from marketing his or her medical services through the use of public media like newspapers, magazines, telephone directories, radio, the Internet, television, and through snail mail.

However, any paid advertisement for promoting the activities of a physician or practice must be specified as sponsored advertising.

Paying a communication media for publicity in the news is unethical. If you are using a television ad to inform the public of your services, it ought to be stated that it is a paid advertising and not integral part of the news.

Also, you need to be careful to select the information that is suitable for that particular method of advertisement. Medical terms and treatment are so complex that the short time available in radio or television advertisement may be insufficient to provide adequate information needed for patients to take decision. Oftentimes due to the brevity of the advertisement, the insufficient information is often misleading.

When you are marketing your services, try not to give viewers impression of subspecialty training if you haven’t got any. Making vigorous approach to specific individuals either physically or through phone calls for the purpose of getting them to become your patient is unethical especially when there is undue pressure on the individual to respond. However, giving out business cards to budding clients at a neighborhood health fair is considered acceptable.

Suitable Advertisement Contents

The words you use in your advertisement must be factual and not misleading. You must be wary of making use of words like “best,” “top,” “world–famous,” “world–class,” or even “pioneer,” in your advertisement. They are commonly deceptive and are meant to get the attention of susceptible patients.

If you make use of this kind of attributes, ensure that the details of how this ranking was obtained are specified in the advert.

Concerns about Discrimination in Advertisements

Your advertisement must not discriminate against race, color, nationality, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

In conclusion, desist from making use of superlatives, promoting specific services or medication, showing your competitors in a bad light and avoid paying people to provide false testimonies. It is also unethical to provide a patient’s sensitive information to the public.

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