There is a fine line between successful medical marketing campaigns and ads that violate PHMC regulations. Today’s constantly changing media landscape demands innovation in advertising your healthcare services. However, creativity aside, Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (PHMCs) are still expected to adhere and stay updated on these advertising guidelines in Singapore.
In this article, we will give you tips on how you can stay compliant with key PHMC advertising regulations.
- What are the PHMC Marketing Guidelines?
- 1. Approved Advertisement Platform
- 2. Non-Permissible Advertising Platforms:
- 3. Display of accreditation, certificates or awards
- 4. PHMC Advertising Content Guidelines
- Ads must not be offensive, ostentatious or in bad taste
- Ads must not contain testimonials (with an exception)
- Ads must not solicit the use of HCI services
- Ads must be factually accurate and not contain laudatory statements
- Ads must not create unjustified expectations
- Ads must not contain ‘before & after’ or ‘after’ only pictures
What are the PHMC Marketing Guidelines?
The Singapore government first introduced the PHMC Advertisement Regulations Guideline in April 2019, with the goal of ensuring that all licensed Healthcare Institutions (HCIs) market their products and services responsibly. Violating the law can result in harsh sanctions that may tarnish an institution’s otherwise pristine reputation.
As a prominent digital marketing agency in Singapore, we are well-versed in the PHMC digital marketing guidelines and comply with them when managing our clients’ advertising campaigns.
1. Approved Advertisement Platform
You must be careful where you deliver your advertising content because adverts appearing on the wrong channel can result in legal repercussions. Here are some examples of approved advertising platforms:
(Newspaper, Magazines, Directories, and Medical Journals)
Printing leaflets and brochures promoting your healthcare services is totally lawful. However, it is prohibited to place advertisement pamphlets and flyers in recipients’ mailboxes without their consent.
Your business can be listed in business directories and advertising spaces of publications.
Your business cannot be promoted in regular newspapers. However, information about your business can be made available as printed materials at your clinic or hospital. It is not illegal for patients or visitors to pick up a brochure while on your premises.
There are no restrictions on how you can market your services within the premises of your clinic, hospital or nursing home. You can use video commercials on private TV channels, huge LED displays, or banners to embellish the concierge. However, keep in mind that the content must still adhere to the existing restrictions.
Website Articles and Social Media
With 4.57 million active Facebook users in Singapore (Statista, July 2021), many businesses have started leveraging social media to promote their services, including PHMCs.
The good news is that paying for social media marketing is legal under the PHMC guidelines. Engaging a Facebook Ads Agency in Singapore that is familiar with its platform’s ad policies, targeting options, and procedures will produce the best results.
Search Engine Advertising
Search Engine Advertising, or Search Engine Marketing (SEM), is a good strategy to raise brand awareness to patients searching online with clear intent. Meeting their goals through paid ads is totally acceptable. Push technologies (i.e. whatsApp, messaging, emails etc) however are not permitted.
Make the most out of your marketing strategy and achieve better results by leveraging both Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and SEM simultaneously. Approach your preferred digital marketing agency in Singapore.
2. Non-Permissible Advertising Platforms:
Advertising on public channels like television, billboards, light boxes, LED displays, banners and other similar platforms are strictly prohibited by the PHMC guidelines other than those specifically approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
3. Display of accreditation, certificates or awards
Your clinic or hospital may have received a number of significant accolades throughout the years. Ideally, they should be highlighted in your marketing collateral as they will undoubtedly instill trust and social proof.
However, PHMC regulations state that you can only do so in limited circumstances. According to the standards, every award earned by an institution can only be shown within its own premises, website, or social media profile, and not in advertisements.
Hence, you may display the awards in your clinic/hospital or create a special gallery for them on your Facebook page. Of course, including a screenshot of such accolades in newspaper advertisements is not permitted
4. PHMC Advertising Content Guidelines
With great content comes, great responsibility. Content advertising not only helps you build trust, educate and connect with your target audience, it also doubles as fuel for other marketing strategies. Here are the lists of do’s and don’ts outlined by the MOH for healthcare related ads.
Ads must not be offensive, ostentatious or in bad taste
When developing ads, you must keep the general population in mind. The policy restricts the use of materials that may induce public anxiety, fear and other negative feelings. Instead, topics should be explored and narrated positively.
Ads must not contain testimonials (with an exception)
One of the key benefits you obtain from consumer thoughts about their purchases and experiences is a review. However, you are not allowed to reproduce any testimonials in advertising.
The only exception to using testimonials in advertisements is when the materials are published internally on the HCI(s) premises, website, or social media page. Even so, the testimonials must be un-coerced and preserved in their original form.
Ads must not solicit the use of HCI services
Although offering discounts is a typical marketing technique, doing so is prohibited by the PHMC advertisement guidelines. For example, a healthcare advertisement advocating a “50% OFF your next health check-up” is not allowed. You also cannot entice people to patronize your clinic by offering promotions, free gifts, interest-free installments, or any other monetary-led incentives.
Ads must be factually accurate and not contain laudatory statements
Every medical claim in an advertisement must be true. You must present resources, proofs, or facts to back up your statements. It is not permitted to include baseless statements for the purpose of market appeal.
Refrain from using laudatory terms that credit quality or excellence to goods or services, as well as those that are complementary or superior. Here are a list of several examples that you should refrain from using in your content advertising:
– “Best e.g. option”
– “Safest option”
– “Wealth of Experience”
– “Advanced e.g. technology”
– “Safest option”
For a complete list of laudatory terms, please see the MOHs entire explanatory guide.
Ads must not create unjustified expectations
HCIs must refrain from making statements that would create unrealistic expectations, even if you are confident in your ability to produce outcomes for patients.
For example, using terms like a “generally short time period” or citing a specified number of sessions, e.g., “instant / immediate teeth whitening”, “straight teeth in 2 weeks”, “see results after 1 treatment session” are frowned upon.
Furthermore, your adverts cannot contain content that derides your competitors.
Ads must not contain ‘before & after’ or ‘after’ only pictures
Under the PHMC guidelines, HCIs are not permitted to post any idealized photographs that suggest before-and-after images that demonstrate the treatment being offered is successful.
Now you are aware of the do’s and don’ts of advertising for Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics in Singapore! We hope that you have found this article insightful and are now better equipped to navigate through the stringent PHMC Marketing Guidelines.
If you still have concerns that impede a successful marketing campaign, do approach a digital marketing agency specialized in advertising for doctors and clinics.
For more information, visit the Explanatory Guide to Singapore’s Ministry of Health’s Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (Advertisements) Regulations, effective 15 April 2019.