The use of telephone surveys to gather information about a community’s perception of chiropractic has for years come under scrutiny as a possible violation against certain state statutes prohibiting telemarketing by doctors of chiropractic.
Yet, many states now recognize telemarketing as a legitimate and acceptable means of contacting potential patients and providing them with an opportunity to learn more about the profession.
The Missouri State Board of Chiropractic Examiners, for example, concluded that “telemarketing is not prohibited under the current advertising regulations assuming that the telemarketing is non-targeted and taken from a general list of phone numbers.” The New Mexico Board of Chiropractic Examiners also permits chiropractors to engage in telemarketing to prospective patients so long as they do not “misrepresent to the person called any association with an insurance company or another chiropractor or group of chiropractors, nor shall such solicitor promise successful chiropractic treatment of injuries, or make any other misrepresentation of whatever kind for the purpose of selling chiropractic services.”
Given the lack of a consistent national policy on this issue, it is the position of the World Chiropractic Alliance that state statutes prohibiting telemarketing are archaic and unlawful, depriving doctors of their constitutional rights and imposing unreasonable hardships on them.
However, the World Chiropractic Alliance also finds that many community-based surveys, when done in an appropriate manner, do not come under the category of telemarketing and do not violate state prohibitions against telemarketing.
The use of survey research of the general population to elicit details about the needs of community members, their perception of health care issues or disciplines, or other demographic or attitudinal information, has a long and honored tradition in many health care areas. Hospitals, medical centers and practice groups, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment firms, and many other health care companies and entities conduct telephone and direct mail surveys for the specific purpose of compiling data that will permit them to best serve the needs of their clients and the public. There is no legitimate reason to deny doctors of chiropractic access to this important information-gathering mechanism.
Naturally, the World Chiropractic Alliance recognizes that care must be taken in the development and implementation of any survey program. The process should be as non-intrusive as possible and completely devoid of any deception and misrepresentation. No pressure should be used to recruit patients, and steps should be taken to protect the privacy of the persons being surveyed.
The information obtained must likewise be used in a responsible manner to help improve the chiropractor’s marketing and public education efforts, or provide greater insights into the specific needs of his or her community. Doctors conducting such surveys, however, have the right to follow-up on those respondees who freely request chiropractic evaluation, care or information. The fact that individuals may become patients as a direct result of the survey cannot be used to re-categorize the survey as a telemarketing tool.