Healthmark talks to us about the medical industry in Singapore, the state of SEO marketing and what they can offer consumers and clients living in Thailand.

Medical doctors, just like any other business, have to market themselves in order to garner clients and traffic to their clinics. Most businesses around the world predominantly turn to online marketing platforms like Google, YouTube and Facebook in order to run their campaigns and reach out to their consumer bases. But what happens when those traditional marketing techniques are against the law?

Such is the case for doctors and medical professionals operating in Singapore who have to adhere to the PHMC (Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics) Publicity Act, a set of strict and highly enforced guidelines preventing doctors from many forms of traditional laudatory marketing. This helps to maintain the repute of the medical industry by preventing exaggerated claims to solicit patients.

But then, how does a medical specialist such as a cardiologist or orthopaedic surgeon, get down to business? The PHMC Publicity Act has left many medical professionals stumped on to promote their services and brand without inadvertently breaching laws.

Enter Healthmark — a very special medical SEO marketing company that has the solution to marketing woes faced by Singapore doctors. They’re the most trusted name when it comes to medical brand building for clinics and specialists. The boutique marketing agency, currently operating in Singapore, soon intends to expand to Thailand, bringing advanced SEO knowledge to help Thailand physicians reach wider audiences.

We had the opportunity to speak to Nate Wang and Alvin Tang, the founders of Healthmark.

Healthmark Founders

Please introduce Healthmark to people who might not know about your service.

Alvin: Healthmark is a boutique medical SEO marketing company based in Singapore. We’ve made a name for ourselves in being the only marketing firm able to navigate the strict publicity regulations in the Singapore medical scene.

You’ve dabbled in many industries before. So what made you start one focused on medical SEO marketing?

Nate: Alvin and I come from digital marketing backgrounds. It was with that skill that we built a base and went into full-time business investing. So between us, we’ve owned preschools, childcare centres, a food business, a media company and even things as brick and mortar as pest control and a hardware store. However, it was during our stint as owners of a medical clinic that we noticed the huge skill gap in medical marketing. We practically couldn’t hire anyone who could market our clinic properly! If we weren’t lucky enough to be marketers ourselves, it probably would’ve dealt us a very expensive financial lesson.

As clinic owners yourselves in the past, what are some of the biggest marketing challenges you’ve personally faced?

Nate: In the past, doctors would commonly make referrals to their peers and the patients would generally be receptive and obedient. “Oh, your blood sugar levels are a little high. My friend specializes in this. Take this note and go see him.” Patients nowadays ask a lot of questions. They research about you on the internet before making any decision. If you can’t show any proof of your good work or testimonials, how are you going to convince someone who just heard about you 2 days ago? It’s tough enough to outsource my marketing work to someone that knows the regulations well. It becomes impossible when I can’t even market my doctor’s most convincing works because of the law!

Healthmark Founders

The laws are there for a reason. What are you doing to ensure that your service still abides by the law and respects the reasons why they were enforced in the first place.

Alvin: Healthmark’s main objective is to help clients respect and abide by the laws. There have been too many cases of SEO marketing agencies who get their medical clients into trouble because they don’t understand the law. As long Singapore does not abolish these laws, Healthmark’s expertise will be required.

As the marketing laws for medical services is different in Thailand, how do you think Healthmark can add value to consumers and clients in Thailand?

Although the laws might be different, the way in which prospective patients behave is very similar. The more relaxed laws actually make marketing much more effective in Thailand. Healthmark has ways to help doctors build trust and helps more people read about their work and understand who they are. The personal touch is very important because patients are looking for a doctor, not just an item like a computer or pair of shoes. There must be a personal connection built even at the online level.

Who are your main clients in the healthcare industry? Which area of “health” are they representing?

Alvin: We have specialists such as eye surgeons, cosmetic surgeons and orthopaedics to aesthetic doctors, general practitioners and dentists. We even have clients as diverse as medtech startups, suppliers and medical infoportals!

Healthmark Founders

Infoportals? What are these?

Nate: Funny you bring that up. In the last couple of years there’s been a distinct rise in medical online portals that publish original content written by doctors. There’s a Thai-funded site like www.ubiqihealth.com that’s actually come to us for regulation advice. Other sites like www.healthascent.com and doctors’ personal blogs have also been rapidly gaining popularity. We think the rise of these sites is mostly due to doctors trying to build up their reputation as experts of their chosen niches, as well as finding a great platform with good traffic to gain visibility.

What are some of the most common requests you get from clients?

Nate: There are a number. It often involves competition. A few will ask me to bring other clinics down, which we always reject. Other times, it’s about how to prevent competitors from buying their names as a keyword on Google. If you’re “Cardiologist Dr. John Tan”, you don’t want “Cardiologist Dr. James Lim” to appear #1 on Google. That’s happening right now in the scene, although we’ve found a few ways to penalize doctors who buy others’ names. It won’t completely prevent it from happening to our clients, but it will dramatically decrease the occurrence.

Will your clients differ in Thailand?

Alvin: We fully expect the type of clients in Thailand to be very similar. As long as reputation of the doctor is important to the clinic, they can be our client. The main skill of Healthmark is building up the reputation of doctors through law-abiding means.

Healthmark Founders

What area in the medical world is the most booming right now? What are people searching for the most when they look up medical services?

Nate: Medical, on the whole, is an evergreen industry. An aging population will see higher searches for specialist treatments. However, the real boom comes when the middle-class in a country grows. This segment gives rise to a huge increase in demand for luxury aesthetic services. Things such as filler treatments, fat freezing, nose thread lifts will get more popular. Recently, the trend has been towards non-invasive aesthetic treatments with zero downtime. As people get busier with their working lives, they hope to go in for a treatment during lunchtime and walk out, ready to go right back to the office.

Do you think boutique agencies really are the last hope for healthcare SEO marketing in Singapore?

Alvin: The laws in Singapore are really strict. This creates a situation where marketing agencies either violate all laws and get clients into trouble, or play it so safe that the marketing becomes ineffective. I think that as long as the laws are not relaxed, it will be very difficult for generic agencies to do medical marketing and SEO in Singapore.

Catherine Napalai Faulder