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Get Your Medical Advertising Guidelines In Singapore Right With This Comprehensive Guide

Get Your Medical Advertising Guidelines In Singapore Right With This Comprehensive Guide 12

In the healthcare sector where misinformation can be not just damaging but dangerous, having a nuanced understanding of the specific medical regulations and ethical standards in Singapore is non-negotiable.

Let’s explore more of the medical marketing regulations here and how to ensure your healthcare advertising strategy is in the right direction in this dynamic landscape.

doctor planning an advertising strategy for her healthcare business that aligns with the phmc guidelines

What Are The Healthcare Service Act (HCSA) Guidelines In Singapore 

The Healthcare Services Act (HCSA) introduces a significant shift from the previous Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act (PHMCA).

Instead of focusing on a premise-based framework, the new HCSA guidelines emphasises the type of services provided, transforming Singapore’s healthcare approach from a location-centric to a service-centric model.

This change from the PHMCA to HCSA ensures clearer standards based on service types, with consistency and quality across the board.

Patients are also more empowered with better information about the type and quality of services, aiding in informed decision-making.

The list of health professionals who must comply with HCSA include:

  • Dentist or oral health therapist;
  • Medical practitioner;
  • Registered nurse, midwife or enrolled nurse;
  • Optometrist or optician;
  • Pharmacist, and
  • Prescribed allied health profession as defined in section 2 of the Allied Health Professions Act

Meanwhile, the service providers who must comply with HCSA include:

  • Blood banking service
  • Clinic laboratory service
  • Cord blood banking service
  • Emergency ambulance service
  • Medical transport service
  • Radiological service
  • Human tissue banking service
  • Nucleur medicine service

Lastly, inpatient and outpatient service providers include:

  • Acute hospital service
  • Community hospital service
  • Nursing home service
  • Preventive health service
  • Ambulatory surgical centre service
  • Assisted reproduction service 
  • Outpatient dental service
  • Outpatient renal dialysis service

a female doctor reviewing the phmc guidelines in a computer in her office

Healthcare Marketing Guidelines To Follow When Crafting Ads For Your Business

The very essence of your medical clinic advertising content requires careful consideration, just like marketing and mastering the fine print of insurance products.

The Ministry of Heath (MoH) has outlined a list of do’s and don’ts for healthcare-related ads which you must navigate to ensure your medical marketing efforts are within the rules.

Follow these guidelines to ensure your advertising aligns with the standards set by the authorities, keeping your healthcare business in good standing.

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #1: Cannot solicit or encourage the use or sale of services

Advertisers can only write purely factual and educational information about conditions and diseases and talk about a range of treatment options available in general, but must not indirectly or directly encourage a sale.

Avoid misleading or unproven statements even if they could increase the market appeal of your services. While the health business sector in Singapore is fiercely competitive and you might want to stand out, it’s vital not to overstep the line into creating unjustified expectations.

For instance, implying that only your institution can achieve specific outcomes or denigrating competitors indirectly or directly is not permitted.

Take note also that only advertisements of payment plans for services are allowed at the institutions payment counter.

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #2: Content accuracy is non-negotiable

Next, every assertion you make in your ads must be verifiable by reliable sources and proof to back up your claims, such as articles published in peer-reviewed journals or other literature recognised and accepted by the local medical/dental community.

Your ads should also tread a respectful path considering public sentiments. The tone of your ads should be positive and considerate, contributing to a respectful dialogue with the public. Don’t add material that might provoke unease, fear, or other negative responses.

Do avoid over-promising and over-selling by being mindful of your choice of words as well. This means no laudatory statements or superlative to describe the services, including but not limited to “advanced”, “gold standard”, “better”, “exclusive”, “leader”, “improved”, and more.

Individual experiences with healthcare services vary, and as such, you can’t promise that all experiences will fall within the expected results. Phrases that imply guaranteed outcomes like “instant results”, “whiter teeth in two weeks”, or “transformation after one session” should be avoided.

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #3: Display the right prices

Transparency and accuracy in pricing are fundamental in healthcare advertising in Singapore.

The emphasis on clear, straightforward pricing information ensures that patients are fully informed and can make decisions based on accurate and unambiguous data.

Avoid misleading terms like “lowest prices” or “discount”; preferential prices for a period; group buys; giveaways and incentives, or any financial advantages linked to your service.

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #4: No “Before & After” images allowed

Beyond advertising copies, medical marketers in Singapore should take note of their advertising images too.

While visual comparisons are persuasive marketing tools, the healthcare marketing guidelines restricts the use of “before & after” or “after only” images, even if they show a justified expectation. Such images can be misleading as they may imply guaranteed outcomes which vary from patient to patient.

Advertisements also cannot compare and contrast the quality of services with others or deprecate other services

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #5: Display of accreditation, certificates, or awards

Lastly, your healthcare establishment’s testimonials, awards, and accreditations are a source of pride and assurance for your team.

Naturally, you’d want to highlight these achievements prominently. However, it’s essential to do so within the established medical advertising guidelines in Singapore.

For example, customer reviews are not allowed on ads on third-party platforms such as newspapers. The only exception is if you’re putting the ad on your own premises, website, or social media page. Even then, testimonials must stay in their original, unmodified form.

You can also only display certifications and awards within your establishment’s premises, official website, and social media accounts. The dissemination of this information on any other platforms or media outlets is strictly prohibited.

This practice ensures a controlled environment is maintained for sharing such information.

MOH requires health care businesses to follow Singapore medical advertising guidelines

Non-HSCA Licensable Healthcare Persons & Services

For professionals that don’t fall under the scope listed above such as chiropractors and physiologists, there are other medical marketing guidelines to follow as well. 

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #1: Cannot advertise treatments of any conditions affecting the body

Direct claims about curing specific ailments or conditions are not permitted. For example, chiropractors and psychologists cannot make bold claims like “curing scoliosis” or “fixing depression”.

Instead, they can share how their services “manage” symptoms and “prevent further aggravation”.

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #2: Be careful about your titles

Non-registered healthcare professionals in Singapore, even those registered abroad, and who use the title ‘Doctor’ must specify their exact qualifications and add a disclaimer that their credentials aren’t equivalent to medical or dental qualifications. This includes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners as well.

For example, you can specify yourself as Dr ABC (Doctor of Chiropractic from XYZ University, United Kingdom – not a medical or dental qualification).

In the realm of aesthetic practices? While this is a booming field in Singapore, it isn’t recognised as a standalone specialty or subspecialty. So, terms like “aesthetic plastic surgeon” or “aesthetic dermatologist” are off the table.

Instead, if you’re a doctor who is a Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon offering aesthetic services, stick to your primary designation or title of “Dermatologist” or “Plastic Surgeon”.

Similarly, General Practitioners or Family Physicians in aesthetics should retain their original titles of “General Practitioner” or “Family Physician”.

Specialists like ophthalmologists with oculoplastic surgery training, ENT surgeons proficient in facial plastic techniques, and General Surgeons with expertise in vascular procedures should only use titles that reflect their specific areas of expertise.

Healthcare Marketing Guideline #3: Know the rules for marketing health products

The first step is understanding what constitutes as a “health product”. Health products encapsulate four broad categories:

  • Prescription Only Medicines (including drugs for sexual dysfunction and aesthetic medicines)
  • Unregistered Therapeutic Products
  • Medical Devices meant for professional use only
  • Cell, Tissue or Gene Therapy Products

For professional-use medical devices, professional-use medical treatments and prescription-only medicines, you can only write purely factual and educational information about conditions and diseases and talk about a range of treatment options available in general. Similar to the PHMCA guidelines, you cannot directly or indirectly encourage a sale as they cannot be advertised to the public.

For pharmacy-only medicines, you must advise consumers to read the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) or the Product Insert (PI), consult their healthcare professionals on the use of the medicine or if symptoms persist, and inform about specific advisories or warning statements like known side effects and age restrictions.

For cosmetic products, you cannot claim to modify a physiological process. This means statements like “Reverse your hair loss in 90 days with this anti-hair loss gel” is a big no-no. Do also only use scientific data or evidence/cosmetic formulation or its preparation to explain possible effects, while following the ASEAN Cosmetic Claim Guideline.

Across all categories, misleading statements, exaggerated claims, and fear-inducing language are prohibited. Endorsements by government or public authorities for these medical products/services, including the HSA, are also not allowed.

two asian doctors reading the phmc guidelines on a laptop

Educational vs Promotional Content

In standard marketing campaign practises, running advertisements is straightforward. But when it comes to medical clinic advertising in Singapore, this is more regulated.

Any form of direct or indirect communication that aids the sale of a health product is deemed an advertisement. Knowing how to strike a delicate balance between providing factual, educational content and avoiding the promotion of specific products is essential.

Here’s an example to illustrate this delicate balance.

1. Educational content

An article titled “Understanding the Impact of Hypertension” can explain the causes, symptoms, and general treatments for high blood pressure. It can provide valuable, factual information without spotlighting any particular product. You can discuss lifestyle changes, diet, and the role of medication in managing hypertension, keeping the information general and educational.

2. Potential promotional content

Suppose the same article, however, delves into details about a specific anti-hypertensive medication, its benefits, and why it may be a superior option. In that case, regulatory authorities may view it as promotional and fall under advertising regulations.

Balancing the two

An effective way to balance these can be to keep your content focused on educating patients about conditions and diseases and leave the specifics of medications and treatment protocols for individual patient consultations. For example, an article about diabetes can discuss its causes, symptoms, types, and importance of blood sugar control, diet, and exercise without endorsing any specific brands or products.

The key is to educate and inform without specifically promoting. Keeping content balanced in this way adheres to the marketing guidelines and positions your medical clinic as a trustworthy and reliable source of health information, enhancing your reputation and visibility in Singapore’s highly competitive healthcare sector.

medical advertising guidelines must be followed

Medical Advertising: The Right Platforms for Success

Advertisement platforms range from emails, corporate websites, social media platforms, mobile applications, and telemedicine platforms to printed materials like brochures, pamphlets, and mailers.

Here’s a breakdown of the platforms permitted for advertising and the accompanying regulations to ensure compliance.

1. Newspapers, magazines & brochures

Looking to shine a spotlight on your healthcare institution? Advertising through newspapers, magazines, and brochures is considered a legal and effective way to get noticed.

Ensure your glossy brochures and pamphlets are only available and distributed within the premises of the clinic or hospital. This is so that patients and visitors have a choice to voluntarily pick up the materials, guaranteeing the lawful and ethical distribution of promotional medical information.

Furthermore, healthcare institutions are obligated to ensure that such promotional materials explicitly contain the date of publication to maintain transparency and adherence to regulatory standards.

2. SMS, television screen, billboards, banners & posters

Under the medical marketing guidelines in Singapore, healthcare institutions cannot advertise their services via SMS, television screens, billboards, banners, and posters. It’s not just about legalities; sending unsolicited advertisements can be seen as unprofessional, potentially impacting your reputation adversely.

Keep it within the walls. Medical advertising is permissible exclusively within the healthcare institution’s premises. Ensure every bit of information is accurate, substantiated, and backed by sources acknowledged by the local medical/dental community.

Don’t forget to cite those sources clearly in your advertisements. Also, be ready to share them with the Ministry of Health (MOH) when they request it.

3. Social media platforms

With the 2023 global digital landscape buzzing with approximately 4.89 billion social media users, it’s paramount for healthcare businesses to ensure ads don’t create unrealistic service expectations or promote unnecessary healthcare consumption services. They should solely inform the public about the services offered.

That’s why partnering with a trusted social media marketing agency guarantees adherence to these PHMCA guidelines, ensuring ethical and effective advertising while enhancing public awareness and safeguarding healthcare standards and reputation.

4. Search engines

Search engines are essential for healthcare businesses striving to broaden their reach. Unlike other advertising methods, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are non-push technologies fully compliant with PHMCA guidelines.

These strategies focus on driving organic traffic growth to boost visibility for those actively seeking healthcare services and information.

Healthcare businesses can maintain regulatory adherence and fortify their digital presence by employing professional SEO and SEM services.

a doctor and marketing professional shaking hands after discussing the phmc guidelines

Move Forward In Medical Advertising Confidently With First Page In Singapore

The journey through the labyrinth of medical advertising guidelines may seem intricate, but with a detailed map in hand, the path to success becomes clear and attainable.

Navigate the complexities of medical advertising in Singapore seamlessly with First Page, a trusted digital marketing company with over a decade of experience achieving exceptional results in the digital marketing realm.

Our expert Google Ads services team is ready to help you maximise your clinic’s online visibility while fully complying with MOH, HSA, and PHMCA guidelines. Or perhaps you’re looking to connect with your audience on social media while adhering to medical marketing regulations in Singapore? Our Facebook Ads services team can help you craft engaging, compliant content that respects the rules and resonates with your audience.

Get in touch with us, and let’s explore how to boost your health business’s online presence together.