The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) exists to promote quality and accessibility in addiction treatment, including the promotion of ethical standards. Because addiction treatment often involves vulnerable individuals and populations, the specialty is no stranger to ethical issues.
Code of Ethics Marketing Updates
Earlier this year, NAATP updated its code of ethics. For the first time, organizations must follow certain ethics in their business and clinical operations to remain association members. Non-compliance could result in removal from NAATP.
Section IV of the NAATP Code of Ethics addresses marketing for addiction treatment providers. Under the updated code, members cannot provide or receive compensation for patient referrals, or buy and sell patient leads. The code also prohibits members from offering amenities or bonuses to prospective patients. This includes waiving copays and other payments, unless the patient has a real financial hardship.
NAATP members also are forbidden from using false or misleading statements or predatory marketing practices. Organizations must be transparent about the services they provide, including licensing, locations, and staff credentials. At the same time, they must protect patients’ privacy and not reveal patient identities without written, informed consent, and only after treatment is completed. This applies to any and all marketing content.
The guidelines demand transparency regarding an NAATP member’s identity in their marketing materials. For example, online directories that use an addiction treatment center’s image, name, logo, and other trademarks are also required to identify that center’s direct phone number and website. According to NAATP Executive Director Marvin Ventrell, some websites claim to be directories or resources, but are actually used to channel Web traffic to one specific organization, whether or not that organization is the best option for the user. The new requirements are intended to protect consumers and help them find the right center for their needs.
How Facilities Can Follow NAATP Marketing Standards
NAATP members and membership applicants may be intimidated by the updates and wonder how to approach their marketing. Here are a few ways that addiction treatment providers can follow NAATP ethical standards while using effective marketing strategies.
Define and track success rates, and publish them accurately.
Develop a clear, thorough privacy statement for all patients. Use another for successful patients who are willing to share testimonials.
Avoid superlatives and certainties in marketing. Terms such as “guaranteed,” “unsurpassed,” or “best” are emotionally charged and potentially misleading.
Set ethical guidelines for all contractors and other third parties.
Ensure that all directories that list the practice also follow ethical standards and include all necessary information.
Take care when using pay-per-click advertising, including Google AdWords. HIPAA regulations prohibit certain organizations from retargeting past website visitors.
Consider an automated reputation management system for posting online reviews and ratings. Ensure that these reviews are entirely voluntary and that the facility protects the patient’s personal information.
Following NAATP marketing standards can be a challenge for many members, but not impossible. Appropriate language, privacy protection, and transparency not only adhere to the association’s standards, but also can increase a facility’s reputation and serve as its own marketing strategy.