Marketing healthcare can be a polarizing topic.

A friend of mine with a family member who is a physician recently gave me some feedback on what he thought about the concept. To paraphrase, he thought the concept was unethical. That is was moving healthcare in the wrong direction. That turning healthcare into a business detracts from noble profession of helping patients improve their lives every day.

Quite frankly, I can see where he is coming from and won’t try to dispute any of what he says. But I would like to offer up our ethical litmus test, which was borrowed from a marketing influence class at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. The three questions we’ll ask are:

  1. Is it wise?
  2. Is it legal?
  3. Is it true?

Is it wise?

If you’re a doctor with a unique skill set in your area and you know what kinds of patients you can truly help, we want to help those patients find you. But if you are trying to sell that skillset to a patient who really would not see any great benefits from it, forget it.

Is it legal?

This doesn’t much apply to healthcare marketing, but from an marketing ethics standpoint, we would never suggest anyone do anything that would get them in trouble.

Is it true?

This is similar to, is it wise? But again, we are not in the business of selling snake oil. We want to work with board certified physicians, who do not want to over promise results or highlight a treatment option that hasn’t gone through legitimate clinical trials, or isn’t a part of a legitimate clinical trial

Parting words on ethics

For me, helping physicians market themselves is about trying to provide valuable information to prospective patients. In many cases, a patient might suspect they have something wrong with them, but they don’t know who they are going to see if they just call a 1-800 number. This is about giving the patients the ability to make an informed decision.

We have to ask ourselves, are we really truly giving the patient the information they need to make a sound decision about their health if all they have to go on are bullet points on one page bio. Don’t be afraid to tell patients a little more about what you can do for them. They need that information. And they might be able to rest a little easier knowing ahead of time that they are going to the right person for some answers.

For a few more thoughts I have on this subject, check out this previous blog, why you can’t sell healthcare.

If you have any additional thoughts on healthcare marketing ethics, I would love to hear about them in comments or in social media.