Most physicians are aware of issues that can result in serious legal trouble, including actions taken against their medical license. Some of the more common issues include patient negligence, insurance fraud, and substance abuse. One surprising issue that can end up causing significant ramifications is advertising. Just like other businesses, many doctors find it beneficial to engage in different types of advertising in order to grow their practice, however, there are crucial factors that physicians should follow in order to avoid legal issues.
Truth in Advertising
Up until 1977, physicians were not even allowed to advertise. Ironically, it was a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Bates v. State Bar of Arizona) that finally allowed attorneys to advertise that opened these doors for doctors. Although not many doctors initially took advantage of this new avenue to attract patients, over the past four decades, physician advertising has become more commonplace.
One of the most critical factors a doctor needs to adhere to when advertising is to be truthful. Be truthful about what your level of medical expertise is and do not try to appear to specialize in an area you do not have education, training, or experience. If you are advertising a specific treatment or procedure you offer, do not guarantee results unless your practice has had a 100 percent success rate.
Not only does being truthful apply to the content of the advertising, but also applies to where the ad is placed. For example, if you are placing an ad in a guide or directory, make sure the ad is not placed in an area of the guide that could give the impression you specialize in an area of medicine you do not.
HIPAA Privacy Rule
Another critical issue physicians have to watch out for when engaging in advertising is to make sure they do not violate the HIPAA privacy rule. As part of their ad, a doctor may decide to write about the success they had with a certain patient as an example of the type of positive outcome the doctor can provide. There are more than a dozen categories of personal health information under HIPAA that can reveal a patient’s identity. If you are going to use a patient example, make sure you obtain a signed release from the patient and that the release meets HIPAA standards.
Contact a Cook County Professional License Defense Attorney
If you are a physician and have decided to invest in advertising to reach potential patients, make sure you work with a qualified attorney to ensure that you are not violating any rules or regulations that could result in sanctions against your medical license. If you have been accused of wrongdoing, call Williams & Nickl, LLC at 312-335-9470 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled Chicago medical license defense lawyers.