Advertising and creating digital marketing campaigns online is a way to help the business’ brand bring in conversions and grow its customer base. However, medical practitioners have to be extra careful with how they advertise their services online. This is because of the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (Advertisements) Regulations that was created for healthcare institutions (HCIs) to regulate how they can and cannot promote their services to the public.
What are the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (PHMC) Advertisement Regulations 2019?
Introduced by the Singaporean government in 2019, the guidelines for PHMC (Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics) basically focus on how HCIs can promote their services’ information, rather than how those services are used or consumed. This is to prevent “providing unrealistic expectations or inducing unnecessary consumption” of healthcare services. It aims to give the public a better understanding of those services and expand the options available to them.
The PHMC regulations covers institutions such as private hospitals, nursing homes, medical and dental clinics, and clinical or radiological laboratories. Complying with these advertisement regulations must be in conjunction with Medicines Act and Health Products Act and their own professional/ethical codes and ethical guidelines. Beauty and wellness establishments are not included in these regulations, but must follow the existing Medicines (Advertisements and Sale) Act.
All healthcare institution licensees are expected to adhere to the law at all times, and failure to do so may result in penalties that may affect the reputation of your business. Those who own clinics, clinical labs, and private hospitals must be familiar with and strictly comply to avoid committing offences stipulated in the PHMC guidelines.
PHMC Guidelines on Advertisement Platforms
Digital marketers must be careful where they market or advertise the business’ services to avoid legal trouble. Aside from showcasing their services within their own premises, HCIs must advertise their services only in the (8) eight media platforms stated in the guidelines: newspapers, directories, medical journals, magazines, brochures, leaflets, pamphlets, and on the Internet.
Advertising on traditional print media is allowed for healthcare institutions. They may choose to list their services in business directories, brochures, leaflet,s or pamphlets. It must include the date of publication and the recipient must have consented to receive these in their mailboxes.
On the other hand, on the Internet or new media, where digital marketers can use different marketing tactics such as social media, videos, and blogs. Especially with almost 4.5 million Singaporeans active on the internet, advertising your services can be effective in reaching new audiences and broadening their visibility. Paying for ads through Facebook, Instragram, etc. is also permitted. Marketers are encouraged to produce creative ways to advertise their services on Tiktok or Youtube whilst complying with PHMC guidelines.
Lastly, advertising on search engines such as Google via SEO or paid search ads is also legal. Since push technologies are not allowed, SEO and SEM is an acceptable alternatives for lead generation.
PHMC Guidelines on Specific Requirements for the Content Advertisement
1. Ads must be factual and accurate
Whilst selling the services available for people to consider, the medical claims must be backed with factually accurate information that can be substantiated as soon as they are disseminated and published. This includes assertions and statements as well. It must be backed with evidence through credible and authoritative sources.
2. Ads must not be offensive, ostentatious, or in bad taste
Digital marketers and medical practitioners must avoid displaying offensive, provocative, indecent, and demeaning images or words in their ads. This is for the sake of the public as well as to continue upholding the honour and dignity of anyone working in the medical field.
3. Ads must not create unjustified expectations
It is the responsibility of the HCIs to avoid setting unrealistic expectations when marketing their services and treatments. This is because every person is different and results may vary per person – depending on the treatment or service that they will avail. It is against the law to imply that a person will achieve results in a set time period and be wary of the words you will choose to advertise as well. Even if you are confident that expected results will come out of this treatment, each experience is different per person and may not meet the guaranteed expectations.
4. Ads must not contain “before & after” or only “after” treatment picture
Even if this way of marketing is effective and serves as a “review” from existing or past patients/customers, according to the PHMC, adding before and after results is prohibited. This includes photos, videos, or films (even with disclaimers from HCIs). They can only be shown within the HCI’s premises during a consultation with a customer (provided with context and possible outcomes from the treatments).
5. Ads must not contain laudatory statements
In relation to the previous statement and to providing factually accurate information, when marketing treatments or services laudatory statements are strictly prohibited. Words or terms that are considered as subjective praises, commendations, and compliments such as “Best”, “Gold standard”, “Advanced”, “Excellent”, or “5 star services” are not acceptable. The full list of laudatory terms that are not allowed can be found here.
6. Advertisements must not contain testimonials or endorsements
Word of mouth through testimonials or verbal reviews is one of the most powerful marketing ways to bring more customers to your business. However, it is restricted in the PHMC guidelines; these testimonials that may say how effective or great your service may be must not be used in any form of ads – may it be through print media or paid online ads. These testimonials or endorsements can only be used within the HCI’s premises, websites, or social media page. Any form of feedback from your customers must not be altered in any way as well.
7. Ads must not solicit or encourage the use of the HCI’s services
HCISs are not allowed to promote discounts, promotions, free products to solicit or encourage customers to use their services or treatments. This includes using particular words such as “Package Deal”, “50% Off”, “Lowest price offer’, etc that come with validity periods. Giveaways, lucky draws, or freebies advertised are also prohibited.
Medical practitioners and licencees are allowed to market their services only in specified channels, offline and online, as long as they strictly adhere to the PHMC guidelines imposed by the government. It does not aim to limit how businesses can advertise their business; rather, it serves as a guide to selling factual information to help potential customers with their healthcare decisions. It also helps to avoid selling expectations that are not realistic and impose unnecessary healthcare consumption.
Following these guidelines is a must; clinics, clinical labs, and private hospitals must comply to avoid penalties and tarnishing the reputation of the establishment. So, digital marketers must be familiar with these PHMC guidelines, especially with the content they create and pay ads for online.
If you need help with advertising your services and treatments while complying with PHMC’s guidelines and regulations, send us a message at Mapletree Media. We have worked with HCIs for years to help them with their conversions, traffic, and bringing in new customers. You may reach out to contact a representative from Mapletree Media here!