The possibilities for marketing your medical practice are numerous. The most effective methods of advertising and growing your practice, most agree, are physician referrals and promotion. But there are some hurdles to jump when using these method.
This article will detail some of the restrictions that exist when making and receiving referrals, and in preparing marketing aids to reach new patients.
The main set of rules governing referrals are the Stark Laws. These were initiated in 1993 and revised and added to in the years since. Government officials have begun enforcing the laws in earnest in the last few years.
The problem with Stark Laws is their lengthy and complex nature. Physicians, lawyers and reviewers alike have difficulty understanding the implications.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website, Stark laws can be summarized as follows:
“The law prohibits a physician (or an immediate family member) who has a financial relationship with an entity from making a referral to that entity for furnishing a designated health service (DHS) for which Medicare or Medicaid would otherwise pay.
The DHS's covered by the law are:
(1) clinical laboratory
(2) physical therapy (including speech-language pathology services)
(3) occupational therapy
(4) radiology, including magnetic resonance imaging, computerized axial tomography scans and ultrasound
(5) radiation therapy services and supplies
(6) durable medical equipment and supplies
(7) parenteral and enteral nutrients, equipment, and supplies
(8) prosthetics, orthotics, and prosthetic devices and supplies
(9) home health services
(10) outpatient prescription drugs
(11) inpatient and outpatient hospital services.”
Physicians associated with academic medical centers as faculty members are exempt from these regulations. When considering referrals as a source of gaining patients for your practice, these laws must be kept in mind. They apply to all staff, and should be followed by providers and receivers of referrals.
Unfortunately, ignorance is no defense. Violators of the Stark law must return any reimbursements from their illegal referrals. In addition, they may have to pay up to $15,000 in penalties, and might be prohibited from using Medicare and Medicaid. These are serious and important restrictions on medical marketing