The Chiropractic Profession Examines Telemarketing

By Editorial Staff
In the wake of research/patient recruitment schemes, comes a new method of acquiring patients: telemarketing. Promoters of telemarketing programs boast, "Telemarketing is one of the most effective methods medical offices and hospitals around the country are using to attract new patients!"

Regardless of what MDs and hospitals do, the chiropractic profession must make its own decisions. Almost all states have statutes and regulations that define the type of advertising in which chiropractors may be involved. "DC" surveyed each state board of examiners to determine the overall stance of state regulations towards the use of telemarketing to recruit patients.

Most state boards told us that while they didn't have specific regulations against telemarketing, they did have anti-solicitation and advertising statutes that would probably apply. A few states did explicitly prohibit telemarketing with several others in the process of establishing specific regulations to address the issue. A number of state boards have received both verbal and written complaints from the public about the use of telemarketing and are investigating what types of regulations can be implemented to solve the problem.

In an effort to understand how state boards would view telemarketing, we contacted the National Association of Chiropractic Attorneys' Vice President, Michael J. Schroeder, Esq. Mr. Schroeder stated: "Patient solicitation by chiropractic doctors is illegal in virtually all states. Marketing and advertising by chiropractors is a legal activity that is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The question is whether telemarketing is considered to be solicitation or marketing. The bright line test that is usually applied turns on the issue of who initiated the first one-to-one contact.

"If a chiropractic doctor runs a newspaper advertisement to which a prospective patient responded, the patient would have initiated the first contact and this would be considered marketing. If a chiropractor were to approach an auto accident victim at the scene of an accident and attempt to convince that person to become a patient, the doctor would have committed an act of solicitation that would be illegal in most states.

"The primary reason that solicitation has been banned is it permits too much of an opportunity for people to be pressured in an area where many people lack the necessary knowledge to make informed choices.

"In my opinion, telemarketing, which is often known as phone solicitation, is a type of solicitation. This is true for two reasons. First, the doctor, or someone working on his behalf, was the first one to initiate one-on-one contact with the prospective patient. Second, phone solicitation provides a very good opportunity for the very sort of one-on-one pressure that the anti-solicitation bans were designed to prevent.

"I would advise all doctors to stay away from telephone solicitation schemes unless they get written opinion from their State Board approving the participation."

With the cost of these types of telemarketing programs exceeding $1,000, it would be wise for a chiropractor considering telemarketing to ask two important questions:

Is telemarketing legal in my state and will it remain legal in the future? You should contact your state board and ask for an opinion before you spend your money.

Is the use of telemarketing the kind of image I want for my profession? The public is already filing complaints about telemarketing to solicit patients, how will your involvement affect your reputation?

Telemarketing as a patient recruitment tool is fast becoming a very hot issue. It would not be surprising to see the state and national organizations begin to express resolutions and develop standards regarding this issue.

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