Don’t you love the deals you can get on Groupon or WagJag? Great restaurant discounts! Cheap Go-Cart rides! Spin classes! Paint Nites! And have you ever tried the miracle noodles?
What about when health professionals use these on-line ‘deal of the day’ marketing sites? Can anything go wrong?
Maybe yes, maybe no. The problem is, as a health professional, you’re not supposed to sell health care services to people who don’t need them. And here’s the legal: It comes back to the idea of your fiduciary duty which, simply put, means that you have a duty to act in the best interests of your patients.
Maybe this analogy will help. In any situation where you are offering a service or a product to a patient, think of it as a contest of “Who’s the Biggest Winner?” The patient always has to be the biggest winner. And physiotherapy patients only win when there is a legitimate potential that they will see real physical benefits from treatment.
Patients win on Groupon only if they actually need and can benefit from the services they purchase. So, as a patient, if I buy a WagJag that offers me three visits for $100, I can be a big winner, but only if I truly need physiotherapy. (I’ve heard the joke that everyone needs physio and I get that, but…in all seriousness, if you are providing visits that do not have a therapeutic benefit to patients, then you are offside).
So how can you use these marketing tools? Make sure you set up the deal so that patients can get some or all of their money back if they don’t need physiotherapy. Conduct your usual careful assessment and discuss what to do next with the patient. If that initial assessment shows no need for or potential therapeutic benefit from physiotherapy, the patient should be able to get part of their money back. Our new Advertising Standard refers to this—5. Advertising About Prices.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a coupon for a dogsledding ride before the deal expires.
Related Resource: Advertising Standard (Revised)