The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) just enacted a new Policy on advertising by physicians. Here is what physicians (and other health professionals who advertise) need to know:
- Advertising is broadly defined. It includes print, TV, radio and internet ads, newsletters, logos and signage, waiting room pamphlets, websites, blogs and social media posts.
- The Policy covers advertising by others. Even if the health professional doesn’t control the advertising (i.e. by a clinic), it must comply with the policy.
- Physicians must not associate their name with or endorse a product or service. This doesn’t apply to the physician’s own services. Referring to specific products to explain treatments when speaking with a patient is okay.
- Endorsing or associating with a facility where the physician doesn’t practice is prohibited.
- Before and after photos or videos are permitted, but only in specific circumstances and where express consent from patients is obtained after the service is provided. Before and after photos or videos may be used in formats where prospective patients may seek them out, such as on the physician’s websites or social media pages (provided there are no paid targeting or promotion of the posts). Physicians need to be especially cautious when posting to social media.
- Patient testimonials are not allowed. Physicians must not solicit these. Before and after photos that comply with the CPSO’s requirements are not testimonials.
- Physicians cannot advertise through ratings websites or comment Pages. Physicians should not request or direct patients to post comments or ratings, or link to websites containing patient testimonials in their advertising. Actively managing ratings websites may breach the Advertising Policy.
- Advertising must be “in good taste”, not “overly commercial” in nature, or posted for “shock value.” Offering medical treatments as prizes in contests or offering prospective patients products or gift certificates to encourage them to undergo a procedure may not be in good taste.
- Targeting or Steering Patients is Prohibited. Contacting or communicating with current patients is okay, as is advertising generally, but organized efforts to direct prospective patients to a particular doctor or to proactively target and contact a person known to need treatment with a view to recruiting them is not allowed.
- Physicians may only refer to titles, designations, or specialties in which they have been certified. Physicians referring to a focused practice area or interest must also include their title or designation before identifying the focus of their practice.
If you are a physician who advertises, including on a blog or social media, be sure that your advertising complies with this policy. Or contact us for advice on how to make your advertising comply.
Rosen Sunshine is pleased to present this special update with a focus on advertising.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) just enacted a new policy on advertising by physicians. As other health Colleges often look to the CPSO for guidance, this new policy will likely be influential throughout the health professions. In this update, we will provide an outline of the CPSO’s new policy, and our thoughts on what it could mean for other health professionals in Ontario and Canada. We have also included a brief history of the regulation of advertising by health professionals, summarized a few recent cases that provide valuable lessons with respect to advertising, and provided our thoughts and tips on advertising during COVID-19.
Other Updates in this Series Include:
Posted in: Blog