How should doctors and medical professionals market themselves? What are some marketing ethics they should be aware of? What are the regulatory guidelines? These are some of the burning questions that have surfaced following a recent controversy over a website that profiles medical professionals. The episode has led the industry to sit up and pay more attention to medical marketing.
Mr Alvin Tang, co-founder of boutique medical marketing company Healthmark, answers some questions regarding medical marketing in Singapore.
How does Healthmark think most doctors will react to stricter regulations concerning promotion on third-party online platforms?
Doctors will most likely start dropping out of third-party platforms, medical or otherwise. While some of these “neutral” platforms like review sites are not under the jurisdiction of the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), a doctor wouldn’t want to take a risk in flouting the SMC Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines.
Do you think that doctors would now think twice before partnering with third party platforms? If so, where would their marketing budget be going to?
Marketing dollars that were previously spent on partnerships and endorsements on third party or blogger platforms would likely be redirected to more organic forms of online marketing such as search engine optimisation (SEO). Search is the one platform that gives the most permanence to a doctor’s online presence, so spending resources to build up a presence on Google search is a great long term investment.
You seem to favour organic search quite highly. Where do paid forms of advertisement come in then?
There’s always a time and place for Google Ads, but we generally dissuade our doctors from becoming overly reliant on paid forms of advertising. A medical entity being on a paid advertising platform like Google Ads may lead to a negative connotation in the minds of certain patients.
As for Facebook, I’d say the golden years of Facebook marketing are over. Facebook used to be a great marketing platform back in 2017, and many high profile doctors built their clinics’ reputation through publishing medical articles and blasting them out on Facebook back in the day. Nowadays, much of the younger working crowd are on other platforms like Instagram and TikTok, so interest is more spread out. That’s not to say that Facebook discovery campaigns don’t work, but it requires real creativity and focus to generate content that can really engage its users.
What marketing advice would you give young and upcoming doctors then?
Patients have become incredibly savvy. Patients now do their own research prior to visiting a specialist and aren’t afraid of levelling medical questions about procedures or medications at even the most experienced doctor. Clinic websites that are well-designed, have personally-written blog articles, descriptions of services that are properly fleshed out will look more authoritative to potential patients.
Ultimately, patients want to find doctors whom they can relate to. The message the doctor carries should be strong. So I’d advise that new doctors express themselves confidently strongly on their website or social media so as to build trust with their patients.
Aren’t you afraid of your competitors learning all your trade secrets?
Not at all. My colleagues and I frequently contribute to the blog section on the company website where we write on all topics related to medical marketing – so sharing our ideas with others is nothing new.
For more information on Healthmark, visit https://healthmark.sg/.