Singapore: Ministry of Health investigating potential breaches of advertising guidelines

1 month ago 71

In brief

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has commenced an investigation into a company allegedly offering doctors healthcare awards in exchange for signing up for a promotional package. 

The MOH has raised that this is a potential breach of the Healthcare Services (Advertisement) Regulations (HCSAR). 

Medical practitioners in Singapore have reportedly been approached by a medical tourism platform with the opportunity to be awarded titles such as “Gastroenterologist of the Year” if they opt to purchase a package offered by the company. 

Such packages include being featured in an entire page of the medical tourism platform’s magazine issues on “200 Best Medical Centres/Clinics in Asia” and “December/January Special Awards”, and on its social media pages, these packages have been offered at around SGD 10,000. 

While some medical practitioners have declined the offer, it has been reported that there is at least one medical practice displaying that it has won awards from this medical tourism platform. 

The MOH is investigating this matter on the basis that this may be a potential breach of the HCSAR, which regulates advertisements made by licensed healthcare services providers. 

Under the HCSAR, licensed healthcare services providers may display or publish awards conferred on them only if the award pertains to the healthcare provider’s satisfaction of technical standards relating to their provision of healthcare services. The awarding body must also be satisfied that the licensee has fulfilled the technical standards, which include accreditations by Joint Commission International and ISO certifications. 

It is an offence for licensees to display accreditation or awards which do not relate to the attainment of technical standards, punishable with a fine of up to SGD 20,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 1 year. 

The MOH has emphasised that providing offering money or other forms of compensation to guarantee awards is prohibited. This is to avoid the licensed healthcare services provider’s portraying of an unjustified impression of the quality of its services.

Separately, medical practitioners must comply with ethical codes such as the Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines (ECEG) and Handbook on Medical Ethics (SMC Handbook), which provide that medical advertising should be factual and verifiable, and not...

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