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In the advent of the “Social Media Generation”, where every facet of society could access and participate in this platform, business industries including hospitals in the United States are looking into social media to actively interact and engage their customers.
I agree with the key legal issues presented in the article. First is the issue on patient anonymity. I agree that featuring patients and patient testimonials for advertising should observe strict confidentiality. In the US, they have this legislation for data privacy called the HIPPA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This law has security provisions for safeguarding medical information, the same as the Data Privacy Law we have here in the Philippines. Social media and the internet can disseminate and spread information very fast, after just with one click, information is sent to thousands or millions of social media users. For me, it is important also that the patient should be formally asked for consent to be featured in any advertising and informed of the confidentiality of such advertising.
The second legal issue is about statement validity. This is about false advertising or putting out information in advertising about a hospital or a physician that is far from the truth. False advertising misleads people. The medical profession is seen as a profession where people entrust their life and limb. So, one false claim can corrode the integrity of the hospital or the doctor and there could be legal issues later on.
The third issue is proper cost allocation for advertising to avoid legal implications concerning the Antikickback Law and the Stark Law. As I was reading this article, it was the first time that I read about Anti-Kickback Law and Stark Law in the US. I think these laws should be adopted in the Philippines. The Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) prohibits offering, paying, soliciting or receiving anything of value to induce or reward referrals The Stark Law on the other hand prohibits physicians from referring patients to receive “designated health services” payable by Medicare or Medicaid from entities with which the physician or an immediate family member has a financial relationship, unless an exception applies. These laws will impose penalties for doctors and hospitals who may violate it. I agree with the article that if a hospital will advertise for the doctors, then the doctors should pay for a portion of the cost of the advertising to avoid being penalized for getting a kickback. Hospitals and healthcare is big business and it is but appropriate for the government to instill control measures, guidelines and laws to ensure that no patient’s rights are violated, there is fair play in the business field
Given the magnitude of the reach and the audience of social media, there is no doubt that hospitals and the healthcare industry are using it to advertise. The power of the social media platform cannot be denied as it provides unprecedented access to wide audience and customers. It should be used wisely, conservatively and always putting patient welfare and confidentiality first.
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