Branding & Exposure

Should Doctors Advertise Like a Business?

Should Doctors Advertise Like a Business?

There’s an ad for everything these days. Everyone who owns a small shop or an online business has multiple ads. The internet doesn’t make the whole ordeal that difficult either. You can simply post an ad online through social media with a click of a button from the comfort of your home. Now to claim any business shouldn’t advertise would be insane. It would be financial suicide. You spend a little on ads in order to make much more in revenue. The question here is: should doctors advertise their practices? There are so many sides to the story. This wasn’t an issue say 30 or 40 years ago. Doctor’s advertising their clinics or hospitals advertising themselves was strange. In 1977, however; lawyers won a suit that allowed them to advertise their businesses and since then doctors have started to do the same although it has been a very gradual and slow process.

The idea here is that by posting ads doctors are officially announcing themselves as a business. Is this what medicine is really about? There’s no doubt that the medical profession has fallen from grace over the past few decades and going into the advertising direction definitely won’t help with that. It will probably make things worse. Even if a physician were to not care about all that and decide to advertise there are still legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind.

So why are you really a doctor? Is it to help people and make their lives better or is to make money? The last thing a doctor should consider his office to be is a business. Businesses are there to make money. You’re not going to work for free of course, but your main target and aim should be to improve the quality of life of your patients. Medicine should never be thought of as a business. The recent trend that it is becoming a business is one of the main reasons the medical profession isn’t regarded as highly as it used to be. Older doctors would never consider advertising. They would find it unprofessional and distasteful. Newer generations, however; are more and more okay with the idea. Even if they thought that advertising was good for profit, there are still lots of setbacks, rules, and restrictions that make advertising way more difficult for medical practices than it is for others.  

Honesty is at the top of that list. What is medicine if not about honesty and transparency? You can’t lie about a procedure or a diagnostic tool because people’s lives are at stake here. If a patient can’t trust his or her doctor then who can they trust? A doctor is where you go to get the truth. The entire doctor-patient relationship is built around trust as a patient will reveal things about himself or herself to a doctor that they wouldn’t normally do even to a parent or a spouse. If as a doctor you’re already lying to a patient before they step into your office, then what are you really doing? In fact it’s the lie in the ad that led them to your office or hospital in the first place so it’s all fake. So make sure that any information you post is backed up with evidence and reliable data. If this doesn’t happen you could be sued by the patient and they would have every right to do so.

Patient confidentiality is another major issue with advertising. Restaurants and photographers often post reviews by their users and previous experiences from clients. This boosts their credibility because as a potential customer you’re going to believe those who already tried a particular service. Reputation is what it’s all about in business. This doesn’t apply in medicine. Patient confidentiality is a pillar of the medical system so you need to be very watchful as to not reveal anything that may lead to the identification of a patient. There are 18 categories of personal health information that can make someone identifiable according to HIPAA. Advertising using one of these can lead to serious consequences and again leave you open to getting sued. Even if a patient doesn’t sue you, you’re going to lose them forever because they have absolutely no reason to trust you after this. It also won’t boost your business. If I see that a doctor used a patient to advertise their practice then I’m going to think “well, he/she’ll probably use me too.” No one wants medical information about them to be revealed so you won’t be doing your business any good. You’ll actually be exposing it to harm.

Never make promises. Don’t claim that you have a 100% cure rate or that what you’re offering is the best compared to your competitors. When you do these things you’re building false expectations which may come back to haunt you if they’re not fulfilled completely. Say things like “results may vary” to clear yourself a little. Results do vary actually because no two people respond the same way to a drug or procedure. So don’t exaggerate about what you have to offer. Don’t give false hope and end up hurting people.

This goes hand in hand with claiming to be a specialist. The only reason you should advertise about being a specialist is if you have the certificates and recognition from a medical entity to back that up. Just because you’ve been doing something a long time doesn’t make you a specialist. That’s why there are tests that people have to pass in order to become specialists. It’s not an easy thing to do or else anyone would’ve done it. By claiming to be something you’re not you may end up hurting patients and ultimately yourself by making false claims that you can’t back up.

As you can see advertising isn’t easy or risk-free. There are plenty of possible consequences and limitations. So you need to know where you stand and what you can and can’t say in an ad. It’s also advisable to have legal counsel to avoid opening yourself up to getting sued. You should also be familiar with the rules and regulations in your state. Rules vary from state to state and what you were used to in one state by not be permissible in the state where you’re working now.

Medicine always has been at the forefront of professions. People don’t look at doctors the same way they do everyone else. They hold physicians highly and look up to them. Patients trust doctors like they trust no one else. They will reveal everything to their doctors. The only way they can bring themselves to do that is by believing that their doctor is different than everyone else. They believe that their doctor truly cares about them and isn’t just an average guy or girl who can potentially betray their trust. Even if rules prevent doctors from doing so, that’s never enough to get someone to reveal very private and personal things about them.

By advertising doctors are basically turning themselves into just another business. They’re no different from a flower shop owner or a manager at Walmart. They’re openly admitting that they’re a business and their main concern is profit. By doing so they’re willingly destroying the image people have of them. I don’t see many patients going to a doctor who has an ad. A good doctor has a good reputation and patients will find him or her even if they were difficult to reach or find. Good doctors don’t need ads to speak for them and bring them patients because their work and professionalism does that for them and their patients walk into their office with trust and appreciation even before a word is said.