Healthcare group buying deals under scrutiny

Healthcare marketing on group buying sites has been called into question as the Ministry of Health investigates several healthcare firms for their ads on these sites.

Under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act, healthcare companies are not allowed to appear to be soliciting or encouraging the use of its services. In Singapore, two healthcare firms have already had their ads suspended, though the Advertising Standards Authority (ASAS) declined to reveal reasons or if either of these suspensions were specifically due to marketing on group buying sites.

Tan Sze Wee, ASAS' chairman said that it had no particular stand on healthcare companies marketing through group buying as long as the company adhered to the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP).

"ASAS is primarily concerned with adherence of the ads to the SCAP. As long as the healthcare institutions advertise within the guidelines of SCAP, ASAS stance remains neutral to this marketing channel," he said.

According to the The Straits Times, the MOH is now investigating several cases of such companies advertising on these websites.

Karl Chong, Groupon Singapore's chief executive told the newspaper that the site has featured about 36 health care deals this year, which is twice the amount it saw last year.

Deals such as dental services, physiotherapy, basic aesthetic services and chiropractic care have been advertised. Traditional Chinese medical treatments are also on offer.

Earlier this month, the MOH was reported to be reviewing its current guidelines for advertising regulations and no date has yet been set for the completion of the review.