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Are There Greater Risks of Advertising During the COVID-19 Crisis?

Every chiropractor knows the good that chiropractic can do to help people achieve their optimal condition. With health vigilance to avoid the coronavirus at its peak, some chiropractors want to share how they can help. But be careful before you do.

In times like these, it’s tempting to share on social media, your practice website or other communications, the multiple benefits of chiropractic care, as well as your specialty. However, it’s important to be accurate.  

Recent federal, state and local health mandates have affected practices’ businesses in a number of ways, including:

  • Fewer patients DCs are able to treat
  • More patients reluctant to be seen in-person

These challenges can result in practitioners who are keenly aware of what others are advertising. Keep in mind that if another healthcare practitioner (or a patient or anyone else) believes your advertising is misleading, they may file a complaint with your state board. It’s also possible they will lodge a consumer fraud claim against you. Then, you will be on the defensive to substantiate what you advertised. This can happen not just with COVID-19 advertising but with any public practice claims.

While there is no way to completely protect your practice against an allegation of misleading advertising, you can reduce your risk by advertising in a manner that other healthcare providers in your community do not view as questionable or inaccurate.

While not a comprehensive list, keeping in mind the following in your advertising will go a long way toward improving your practice’s risk management.

What to Avoid

  • Questionable or unsubstantiated statements. When touting the chiropractic services you offer, be careful not to over-promise. Not everyone may expect the same results as a patient who was a best-case scenario. Also, make sure to cite the sources for any statistics you use.
  • Offers of warranties, fee payments, terms implying superiority of care may be in violation of state practice regulations and could lead to board action. A recent example is the advertising of two doctors who claimed their customers would lose 20 to 40 or more pounds in 40 days through a fat-burning plan. However, they failed to mention that the plan consisted of a very low-calorie diet of 500 to 800 calories a day.
  • Negative comments about other healthcare methods. This may foster an environment where practitioners look for an opportunity to retaliate against you. Also, this tactic makes you look unprofessional.
  • Coupons (e.g., Groupon), free offers or prepayment plans. Not only do these deals tend to downplay the high-quality services you offer, they also have the potential for being misunderstood. If you decide to use these, check with your state board regarding their legality.
  • Confidential information. Never use any information about a patient without their written consent. Use care not to share information that would identify a patient. (This is particularly the case in small towns where patient details may be common knowledge.)
  • Clinical jargon. Using technical terms such as “thoracic” versus mid back, “cervical” versus neck or “radiculopathy” versus radiating pain increases the chances your ad will be misunderstood. Moreover, many potential patients will look past your ad if they can’t relate to it.
  • Offensive images. What may seem commonplace to you as a healthcare practitioner might strike a layperson as unusual or even negative. Be careful that the photos and art you use don’t have the potential to be misconstrued by potential patients.
  • Violating state requirements. For example, some states won’t let you use the word “physician”—unless you specify “chiropractic physician.” Others require you to call yourself a “Doctor of Chiropractic” not just a doctor.

As you develop advertising materials, check with your state board or your practice attorney to ensure they're consistent with the rules and regulations in your state. 

When your advertising portrays your practice in a professional light, you put the principles of sound risk management into action. Plus, you’ll gain the long-term respect of your community, your patients, your colleagues and your interdisciplinary relationships. The increased understanding of the types of services you offer, as well as the benefits of chiropractic, will serve to benefit your practice well past any times of crisis.

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