Groupon for Physicians?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the current state of the economy, consumers are relying on new discount programs to help fund everything from ice cream outings to laser tag adventures to liposuction. Groupon and similar sites like Living Social offer subscribers daily deals for local products, services and businesses ranging from 20% to 90% off the original price. These virtual coupon inspired sites allow consumers to afford experiences they wouldn't be able to fund otherwise, and also send high-volume traffic to businesses that are looking to expand their audience.

These marketing programs have been adopted by all types of businesses - restaurants, theme parks, salons, spas, movie theaters, and even medical practices. However, health professionals and providers need to be aware of the risks associated with these discount sites. Sometimes, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it is.   

Physicians and their practice managers should be cautious when considering promoting their practices through Groupon and similar coupon discounts. Many of these marketing programs collect a fee from the physician for each coupon purchased, which may be a violation of federal or state law.  There are numerous federal and state laws that prohibit physicians and their practices from paying for referrals.

There are also numerous laws prohibiting physicians and their practices from splitting fees. A coupon marketing system may violate some of these laws depending on how the agreement is structured.  Physicians and their practices should consult their healthcare attorneys before entering a coupon marketing agreement.

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