Lawful Marketing of Your Radiology and Diagnostic Center

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Radiology & Diagnostic Center Marketing

Understanding the law and what is allowed and Marketing your Diagnostic Center, you will attract new patients, grow your practice, and get the attention of referring physicians.  Lack of understanding, and you could face steep fines or possible jail time.

So, where’s the line and what can you do to grow your patient base?

Marketing is easy when your online reputation is top notch.

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The Laws You Need to Consider When Marketing your Diagnostic Center:

When marketing your practice, there are multiple legal restrictions which dictate what is lawful and what is not.  There are two areas which are especially relevant.  

First, you will need to be aware of anti-kickback laws.  This is a federal law which prevents you from offering money or gifts to entice patients into your clinic. This is a felony.  If charged and convicted, you could go to jail.

Lawful Marketing your Diagnostic CenterSecond, you will need to be aware of the Stark law.  This law prevents you from offering incentives, money or gifts to providers in return for funneling patients to your center.  This is a civil code, thus, if convicted you will not face jail time.  You will, however, enjoy a substantial fine. An important fact to know and understand about this law, you do not need to show intent to be in violation. You can be in violation without knowing and still be ordered to pay a fine.

Read up on the 2017 non-monetary compensation limits in this article

Here are some instances which illustrate what you should and should not do to market your practice or clinic:

Situation #1: Playing the Social Media Tagging Game with your Radiology and Diagnostic Center

A radiology or diagnostic center partners with a local business to promote awareness for breast cancer screening. Marketing brochures are placed within the business instructing participants to post a selfie with the brochure and tag your practice for a chance to win a small prize.

Allowed?: Probably good to go.

This situation is about breast health awareness and not specifically bribing patients to come in to your clinic.

Situation #2: MRI Merch for your Radiology and Diagnostic Center

To promote a new MRI machine, a clinic offers branded marketing merchandise to the first 25 referring physicians for a certain period of time.

Allowed?: Nope.

Lawful Marketing of Your Radiology and Diagnostic CenterThis is a violation of the Stark law. You cannot offer an incentive to referring providers only.  You won’t face jail time, but you could face a large fine.

Situation #3: Lunch & Learn at your Radiology and Diagnostic Center

A center offers free lunch to local physicians while providing an educational seminar on new relevant technology.

Allowed?: Should Be Fine.

Education does not run against the Stark law, just make sure that education is, in fact, the focus. If you prefer to be extra cautious, keep an accurate accounting of the cost per guest attending the event to report on your non-monetary compensation spreadsheet.

Situation #4: The Holiday Gift Basket Bash for your Radiology and Diagnostic Center

Your office is one of many within a hospital marketing to referring physicians.  You want to send them a nice holiday fruit basket to make sure they remember you.

Allowed?: Hmm, You Better Watch Out

The amount of non-monetary gifts you can give to a provider is calculated by entity and not by department.  Thus, if radiologists, orthopedists, cardiologists, hospital administration, or any other department are also sending baskets, you could be in violation of the Stark law.  You should try to see who is giving what and an idea of cost.

Situation #5: Your Radiology and Diagnostic Center in Full Color

You just got a bunch of 5-star reviews and some extra budget for marketing, so you put out an ad proclaiming your practice as the best in the region.

Allowed?: Maybe Not – Be Careful.

fake news, Marketing your Diagnostic Center

Something to always keep in mind when advertising your radiology or diagnostic center is truth-in-advertising laws.  Are you really the best around?  Did you conduct a verifiable survey?  

If you cannot prove your claim, you could be in violation. You will also need to take into consideration the models in your advertisement.  If they are current or former patients you must have a signed release granting permission, otherwise, you could be faced with a HIPAA violation.

Situation #6: Fancy Dinner and 15 Min. Talk About Radiology & Diagnostics Centers

A center invites referring providers to an expensive dinner at an upscale restaurant. To check off the educational portion of the evening, a fifteen-minute lecture on the latest in the radiology and diagnostic field is discussed.  The rest of the evening is spent enjoying wine, spirits, and delicious gourmet cuisine.

Allowed?: It’s a no-no.

This is the reason the Stark law exists.  They are written to keep large, expensive gifts from being given to entice referring providers to send patients your way.  Fancy dinners with all the trimmings qualify as large gifts. This is also a situation where you may, in fact, have to attribute the entire cost of food to each guest rather than noting a per person amount.

Situation #7: Extra, Extra: Get Your CME Right Here … at this Radiology and Diagnostic Center

A radiology and diagnostic center would like to offer CME to area providers.

Allowed?: Maybe.

CME, Marketing your Diagnostic CenterIf the referring provider would normally be paying for this CME, you will need to charge a fee. If you decide against charging, the cost will need to be recorded on your non-monetary compensation spreadsheet.

Situation #8: Diagnostic & Radiology Center Mixer

A practice manager at the office of a provider requests that a diagnostic and radiology center bring in lunch for everyone to enjoy together.  This is also a great way to break the ice and network.

Allowed?: Don’t do it.

No individual at any referring physician office may request a gift of any kind, which includes food.

Situation #9: Diagnostics Coupons and Special Deals on Exams?

Can a radiology or diagnostic center offer a promotion through a coupon service such as Groupon?

Allowed?: Maybe, but be careful.

So long as the promotion excludes Medicare patients, you should be clear to proceed. If the discount includes Medicare patients and Medicare pays for the service provided, this is defined as a kickback.  Not to mention, Groupon received a cut, which is like a commission for sending patients. These are not allowed.

Situation #10: Let’s Party! With Your Favorite Providers

Can a radiology and diagnostic center throw an appreciation party for referring providers?

Allowed?: Record Keeping is the Name of the Game

The Stark law provides a predetermined amount that may be spent each year on non-monetary compensation. This can be food, pens, stress balls, etc.  Use a spreadsheet to keep a record of how much is spent per year per physician.

Marketing your Diagnostic CenterThese situations are just a sampling of scenarios which radiology and diagnostics centers can face at any time. Knowledge and understanding of current laws and norms are of the highest importance when operating a successful practice.  Whether you are in the radiology and diagnostic industry or another field, be sure to realize and put into practice all guidelines and laws governing your practice today.

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