Marketing gets a bad rap, as if it’s designed to scam people. And admittedly, this is frequently well-deserved. But I like to believe that marketing is about communication, not manipulation. It’s about encouragement, not coercion. Marketing, in my opinion, should always be ethical – but that goes double when it comes to healthcare. So let’s get real. Let’s talk about the secrets of ethical healthcare marketing.


It’s a given that healthcare is a business. And it’s a given that any sales rep is there to steer you towards signing with their company. But having an agenda is not necessarily a bad thing. We live in a free-market economy, so it makes sense that vendors will strive to fill the needs of health systems. After all, somebody has to make the MRI machines and the blood pressure cuffs and the telehealth platforms.

So the issue isn’t the agenda; the issue is how it’s presented. In healthcare, that presentation had better be absolutely honest. It had better be clear and straightforward.

The best approach to marketing and sales in a healthcare environment is education, pure and simple. Help people understand what is needed and why your product is the best of the bunch. Fancy slogans and taglines are fine for the occasional headline in the healthcare marketing world, but only if accompanied by actual information. That means factual data. It means statistics that come from research. And it means real stories of how your product helped real patients.

A Simple Test of Marketing Ethics

You can always gauge how ethical something is by how much secrecy surrounds it. So if you would be embarrassed – or, worse, ashamed – to discuss your marketing strategy in front of your customers, you’ve got a problem. Now, privacy is not the same as secrecy. So if, for instance, you are a brand-new company, you may not want your customers to know how much (or how little) is in your funnel. But that’s not the same as hiding the fact that you have created a campaign based on false information. The first is a privacy issue; the second is an ethical issue – and that’s where you have to draw the line.

And Here’s a Follow-Up Test

You can even take it a step further. Maybe you’re comfortable discussing your marketing with your customers. But are you okay discussing it with theirs? A lot of healthcare vendors sell to health systems and physician practices. This means there are two sets of customers in the mix: the provider buying the product and the patient using it. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are comfortable discussing your growth strategy with a provider but wouldn’t want the patient to hear it, then you know you’re crossing the line.

Keep It Simple

Ethics in healthcare marketing is not complicated. You can boil it down to “Don’t sell people something they don’t need or can’t use.” If you’re honest and focus on communication while providing factual information, you won’t go astray.

Photo by Saeed Karimi on Unsplash.