HomeNational Medical CommissionAdvertisement norms for doctors, corporate hospitals can’t be different, says NMC panel

Advertisement norms for doctors, corporate hospitals can’t be different, says NMC panel

New Delhi: An internal panel formed by the National Medical Commission’s (NMC) is planning to endorse only “ethical” advertisements by corporate hospitals, as prescribed in the Professional Conduct of Registered Medical Practitioners regulations issued last year, which were later put on hold. The issue of advertisement by corporate hospitals was for the first time addressed by the NMC when the “Regulations relating to Professional Conduct of Registered Medical Practitioners” was issued in August 2023, which were withdrawn following strong protest by the Indian Medical Association. The NMC’s 2023 guidelines had said that the provisions related to advertisements would be the same for doctors and hospitals offering healthcare services.

After extensive discussion on the subject by the NMC panel constituted to look into the issue of advertisements by corporate hospitals as per the direction of Supreme Court, the expert panel has endorsed the provision suggested last year, through which the commission had tried to impose strict “ethical standards” for both doctors and hospitals. The NMC’s seven-member panel was formed following an SC directive during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) by Dr Aniruddha Malpani, a Mumbai-based infertility expert last year. The PIL contended that “there is an alarming situation created by unfettered advertising by corporate hospitals and the newly-emerged venture capital-funded healthcare start-ups”. 

According to the NMC’s professional conduct guidelines 2023, registered medical practitioners (RMPs) and entities, such as corporate hospitals, maternity homes, nursing homes, private hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and medical training institutions are permitted to publish announcements across print, electronic, and social media platforms. “However, these should not contain anything more than the name of the institution, type of patients treated or admitted, kind of doctors and staff training and other facilities offered and the fees,” the regulations added. Moreover, according to the proposed norms, any violation could have resulted in a penalty in the form of a warning or suspension of licence for 30 days for the doctors involved. 

The professional conduct & ethics regulations 2002 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, currently prohibit physicians from engaging in self-promoting advertising. This includes any form of publicity that highlights a doctor’s professional standing, skills, qualifications, achievements, or honors in a manner that could be seen as self-promotion. These norms also prohibit doctors to “boast of cases, operations, cures or remedies or permit the publication of report thereof through any mode”. But the norms permit for a formal announcement in the press regarding the initiation of medical practice, change in the type of practice, change in address, absence of duty, or resumption of another practice. However, the existing regulation does not mention hospitals — leaving room for private facilities, especially large corporate settings, to advertise themselves freely.