The Turkish Ministry of Health has recently implemented a new regulation, the “Regulation on Promotional and Informational Activities in Healthcare Services”, with the primary goals of increasing transparency and upholding high standards while standardizing promotional and informational activities within the healthcare sector. By consolidating existing fragmented legislative provisions and introducing new rules, the regulation aims to ensure greater clarity and consistency in healthcare service practices. The scope of the regulation encompasses all healthcare professionals, medical institutions, private entities, and international health tourism agencies that operate under official permission, authorization, or a license granted by the Ministry of Health.
As a result of the new regulation, certain widely practiced activities on social media, such as sharing “thank-you videos” and comments made by patients, displaying before/after images of patients, and enabling public comments on these images on social media, will no longer be permissible.
Key points from the new regulation are summarized below:
1. Fundamental Principles: Promotional activities must adhere to ethical standards, medical deontology, and professional ethics. False or misleading promotional and informational activities, which may jeopardize public health, create unfair competition, or deceive patients, are strictly prohibited.
2. Content Restrictions: Promotional materials should be limited to information on the services provided, contact details, and preventive or improving healthcare advice. Scientifically unproven or non-regulated medical methods cannot be promoted. Except for the distribution of scientific, statistical, and newsworthy information, advertisements as well as promotional and other similar activities related to organ procurement are prohibited.
3. Social Media & Internet: The guidelines extend to promotional activities conducted on social media platforms and websites. Compliance with the principles is mandatory for all healthcare providers, and any breach is equally attributable to any person or entity sharing such content. Healthcare providers' websites must also clearly indicate the date of the last update of the relevant information provided and the contact details of the website editor.
4. Visual Content: Before/after comparisons, misleading images, and any content that invades patient privacy, including sharing patient images during surgery, medical intervention, or in the operating room, are strictly prohibited. Visual content must remain unaltered and free from any technological modifications or corrections. Additionally, it is essential to include the date of the relevant surgery or medical intervention and the date the image was taken alongside the visual content.
5. Privacy: In order to use visual content belonging to the patient, one must obtain the explicit consent of the patients themselves if they are of legal age, or of their parent or guardian if the patient is a minor or incapacitated. Additionally, the form attached to the regulation must be used for this purpose. Healthcare providers and professionals will also need to obtain patients’ explicit consent before sending any e-mails, SMS, or social media messages. Accordingly, all promotional and informational activities must comply with the current Turkish data protection legislation.
6. Social Responsibility Projects: Any promotional and informational activity within the context of social responsibility projects or campaigns now requires prior approval from the Ministry of Health.
7. Television & Radio: Healthcare professionals participating in healthcare-related programs on television and radio must sign an undertaking provided as an annex to the regulation.
8. Penalties for Non-Compliance: Healthcare professionals violating these regulations may face administrative fines. Repeated violations may lead to temporary suspension of medical activities for institutions or facilities. In cases of non-compliance by international health tourism agencies, temporary suspension of health tourism activities for up to three months is also possible.
While drawing criticism from some within the sector and welcomed by others, this regulation will undoubtedly result in more rigorous supervision of healthcare providers. If you have any queries or require assistance in ensuring compliance with the new regulation, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
To access the regulation in Turkish, simply click on the link provided here.