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Choose your words wisely when it comes to marketing your medical practice

To be successful in your medical practice, you need patients. Although word of mouth is still an important way to grow your base of patients, you may need to market yourself and your practice through print, radio, TV and Internet advertising and public relations.

To be successful in your medical practice, you need patients. Although word of mouth is still an important way to grow your base of patients, you may need to market yourself and your practice through print, radio, TV and Internet advertising and public relations. When you do, you want to come across as “the best” and let patients know they can expect “exceptional care” from you; however, you may not want to use those exact words or other superlatives that may inflate patient expectations.

People often rely on claims you make in your marketing — whether in printed materials, in radio ads, or with electronic communications such as emails and websites. As a result, you may expose yourself to potential professional liability risk if something unforeseen or unintentional happens under your care. Medical results, if inconsistent with your marketing information, may lead to allegations of a breach of expressed or implied warranty of care.

Just recently, a jury found concierge medical service MDVIP responsible for fraud and false advertising, and awarded $8.5 million to the estate of a Boca Raton, Fla., resident whose leg was amputated as a result of MDVIP’s failure to deliver the quality medical services promised to its members. MDVIP promised “exceptional doctors, exceptional care and exceptional results” in exchange for a $1,500 annual membership fee.  The plaintiff’s attorney successfully argued that the implied promise far surpassed the level of “reasonable care.” Using this elevated and subjective wording made virtually any result that turned out less than ideal to fall short of the care in the promise.

As you consider what to include in your marketing efforts, including word selection, remember that:

  • Health-related promotional efforts are held to a high ethical and legal standard.
  • False and/or exaggerated claims in advertising are illegal under federal law.
  • State consumer protection statutes, which vary widely from state to state, also regulate advertising and may have additional rules.
  • You may want to create a planning and review process that includes legal consultation.
  • Avoid superlatives and phrases such as “painless,” “best care,” “expert care,” “highest quality,” “optimal results,” and “permanent results” among others.
  • Use caution when publicizing success rates to ensure you have a factual and scientific basis for any numbers you may use.

For more information on professional liability and risk management for your medical practice, contact PSIC today at 888-336-2642.

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