New Social Media Advertising Laws 2019

Healthcare advertising and promotion has always been closely scrutinized by UAE governing bodies to ensure the integrity of the UAE is rightly protected and upheld. With the introduction of strict social media advertising laws, how prepared is your healthcare business?

Recent sweeping changes concerning online healthcare advertising and promotion have been introduced by the Federal National Council (FNC) as a hardline deterrent to those who fail to abide by the proposed new regulations.  These changes have been introduced due to the significant increase in the number of complaints about medical procedures and unethical or misleading advertisements posted online.

The FNC passed a new draft law in October 2018 and under these new regulations in a bid to protect patient integrity, identity and safety, clinics that promote procedures on social media platforms will be held accountable if their content is not compliant and pre-approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap).

Misleading, non-compliant and malicious advertising will be severely penalized with fines ranging from a warning and/or AED 1,000 to AED 1M issued to healthcare organisations, clinics AND physicians who fail to comply with the rules.

Penalisation also includes the potential suspension of medical licenses for 6 months to 1 year and the cancellation of permission to use the central data systems which will be set up by the Ministry to store and exchange medical records.

Advertisements and promotional campaigns that are published online and websites without consent and a permit shall result in fines ranging from AED100,000 to AED200,000.  Entities sharing patient details without explicit consent or those who post videos and images of medical procedures without approvals will also be severely penalized.  Several well-known surgeons have recently felt the wrath of the law after posting promotional videos of aesthetic procedures aligned to ‘special offers’ and ‘discounts’.

The new draft laws will come into effect three months after the publication in the Official Gazette; January 2019.

All of this will sound particularly alarming to practices that use social media and rely on offering promotions and discounts on a regular basis.  There are even practices that have made the hard decision to discard social media from their entire marketing strategy in an attempt to avoid penalization.

The harsh reality faced by everyone using social media for advertising and promotional means within the UAE is that the new law insists upon compliance and old, outdated marketing methods are a thing of the past.

Is there a solution?

The new laws do not necessarily mean that deleting your social media accounts is the only viable option.  At The Healthcare Network, our marketing strategy is heavily focused on endorsing and promoting POSITIVE PATIENT EXPERIENCE throughout our partner network and the new regulations prove that this tactic is absolutely the way forward.  ‘Word of Mouth’ recommendations about your healthcare practice are worth their weight in gold and yet will only materialize if your entire organisation supports and practices positive patient experience.  Not only will your reputation grow, but so will your patient numbers and naturally, your revenues.

The Healthcare Network already has a robust training calendar in place for our partners and some of you will have already enjoyed our kick off positive patient experience workshops which we will continue with a different element in focus at each session.

We shall be in touch with further announcements about our forthcoming workshops very soon which we hope you will be able to attend.  In the meantime, we shall continue to monitor the implementation of the new regulations and notify you of any additional news as it happens.