Understanding the Ethical Nuts and Bolts of Veterinary Marketing

0 Comments Posted by Vet Network in Blogs, General, Legal, Marketing, Veterinary Malpractice, Veterinary Medicine, Websites on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013.

Misrepresentation is Risky Business for Your Veterinary Hospital

With the constant daily buzz of television commercials, radio broadcasts, and internet websites, it’s often difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. However, there are certain subjects where clarity and accuracy cannot be sacrificed. As a veterinarian, you know caring for pets is one of those areas and that hiring a professional veterinary marketing company is very beneficial. So when Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic (SVC) advertised on its website that its practicing Dr. Langhofer was “highly skilled at working with exotic animals,” it ran into trouble. Why? Because this information was false.

Adhere to Veterinary Medical Ethics

Based on what he saw and read on the hospital’s website, David Kaufman chose to bring his sick Scarlet Macaw “Salty” to Dr. Langhofer. Unfortunately, his choice was a fatally wrong one. Ten thousand dollars in veterinary services later, Salty was dead and David was emotionally and financially distraught.

He sued Dr. Langhofer and his veterinary hospital in Arizona’s Superior Court for malpractice, gross negligence, gross incompetence, and negligent misrepresentation. A jury ruled in favor of Mr. Kaufman. Dr. Langhofer also found himself wrapped in the wrath of the Veterinary Medical Examining Board which determined he was guilty of “Unprofessional and Dishonorable Conduct”. The legal fines and disrepute he subsequently endured were a direct consequence of his having misrepresented his qualifications on the hospital’s website. Don’t let this be you.

According to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics published by the American Veterinary Medical Association, advertising by veterinarians is not ethical when there are “false, deceptive, or misleading statements or claims – claims that communicate false information or are intended… to leave a false impression.” Liability arises when a listener or reader relies and acts upon the misrepresentation and that act results in a pecuniary loss to the listener.

Specialization vs. General Interest: Never the Twain Shall Meet

A veterinary specialist is a veterinarian who has completed additional training in a specific area of veterinary medicine and has passed an examination that evaluates his/her knowledge and skills in that specialty area. Accordingly, a “specialization” is by no means interchangeable with a simple interest, passion, or basic knowledge of a certain subject.

In the case of Dr. Langhofer, Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital’s website claimed that he was a “specialist” in exotic pet care and cardiac issues. To the average and reasonable pet owner, the website suggested that Dr. Langhofer possessed the requisite training and education to treat exotic pets. Mr. Kaufman relied on the veterinarian’s claims of specialization to help treat his sick bird, Salty. When placed under oath, Dr. Langhofer admitted that he was not board certified in exotic pet medicine. Ultimately, Dr. Langhofer failed to identify Salty’s heart condition and this failure led to the bird’s death. Eventually, the Arizona Veterinary Medical Examining Board found Dr. Kaufman guilty of dishonorable and unprofessional conduct, he received heavy fines, and was placed on one year probation of his medical license.

Bolts_ImageKnow the Nuts and Bolts of Veterinary Marketing

Never misrepresent yourself or your practice on your veterinary website or any other marketing material. While it may be tempting to inflate qualifications or bolster language to attract clients, it will bring you trouble – both with clients and with the law. You and your hospital have genuine qualifications to promote – market them professionally and responsibly; success will follow.

There are three main elements to remember when developing your veterinary marketing campaign:

  1. Don’t make claims that are false, misleading, or deceptive in your veterinary advertising;
  2. Avoid comparisons or conveying an attitude of superiority;
  3. Never imply that you’re a specialist unless you actually are a specialist.

Veterinary Marketing Professionals You Can Trust

To stay safely within the parameters of accurate advertising, it is critical to hire veterinary marketing professionals with experience in creating customized and reputable websites. VetNetwork specializes in digital and print marketing services exclusively for veterinary hospitals.

Don’t let yourself become the next Dr. Langhofer. Protect yourself and your practice with VetNetwork. Our proven track record for growing client bases and increasing veterinary hospital revenue clears your path for success.

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