Are pay-per-lead marketing programs legal?
An emerging trend in medical marketing treats patients like commodities and puts medical professionals in serious legal peril. Pay per lead programs, a popular form of online affiliate marketing, are popping up like weeds in the elective healthcare industry. These programs charge a set fee for the name and contact information of a patient interested in a specific procedure. According to the Medical Board of California such programs are a clear violation of Section 650 of the Business and Professions Code, and similar codes exist in many states. Across the nation, hundreds of surgeons have been lured in to the unethical practice of “fee for referral.”
The way Section 650 is written, it’s no wonder medical professionals might be confused about the legality of participating in pay-per-lead programs.
Medical Board of California Business & Professions Code 650.
Except as provided in Chapter 2.3 (commencing with Section 1400) of Division 2 of the Health and Safety Code, the offer, delivery, receipt, or acceptance by any person licensed under this division or the Chiropractic Initiative Act of any rebate, refund, commission, preference, patronage dividend, discount, or other consideration, whether in the form of money or otherwise, as compensation or inducement for referring patients, clients, or customers to any person, irrespective of any membership, proprietary interest or co-ownership in or with any person to whom these patients, clients, or customers are referred is unlawful.
When you cut through the legalese, the message is clear, “…the offer…of any…consideration…as compensation or inducement for referring patients…is unlawful.”
It is the kind of unlawful conduct that can land a doctor in prison or with fines up to $50,000 on the first offense.
Most state medical licensing boards will have similar restrictions for medical professionals practicing in their state.
Click here for easy access to medical marketing laws within the United States.