Gone are the days when doctors make house calls and help heal anything that may ail a patient. Patients now travel to their doctors and physicians practice in a world that expects physicians have years of specialized training in their chosen field.
This can also lead to a need to market their services.
What should doctors know before they begin marketing their practice?
Marketing in medicine is not the same as it is in any other field. This is because we equate medicine to a social need and expect physicians to focus on helping patients heal. We want to make sure that the patient’s health is more important than financial gain—and yet, physicians need compensation.
This means marketing is a slippery slope often guided by state and federal regulations.
What types of rules and regulations guide marketing in medicine?
One example is the Medical Practice Act which states that physicians cannot use any advertisement that would be perceived as false, misleading, or deceptive or claim to be superior if there is no clear verification for such a statement. A failure to follow these rules can mean the physician faces penalties for a violation of this law as well as a potential investigation from the state licensing board.
Does this mean physicians can use social media as a marketing tool?
It would seem use of social media for advertising can be okay if it does not run afoul of these rules. Although generally true, it is important to note that things can go wrong when using social media as an advertising platform. In a recent example a state medical board chose to revoke a surgeon’s medical license after she live streamed procedures on her TikTok page. Not only were there concerns about patient privacy but many of the patients experienced negative outcomes. At least three required additional medical care and the surgeon also faces medical malpractice lawsuits.
The case serves as a reminder to move forward with marketing a private practice with caution. A failure to abide by rules and regulations can result in more than just a fine, it could lead to revocation of one’s medical license.
Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication.