In the behavioral and mental health fields, the tech giant Google reversed a previous decision regarding online advertising for addiction treatment services.
In September 2017, Google stopped letting addiction treatment centers and providers use the tech giant’s pay-per-click (PPC) program known as AdWords.
Google suspended the use of its AdWords platform due to concerns of abuse. A series of investigations showed that people who were looking for addiction treatment help were purposely redirected to more expensive addiction treatment centers, that often provided inferior medical services.
An outcry from behavioral health professionals encouraged Google to stop allowing these ads in the United States in September. By the following month of January Google had extended the drug rehab advertising ban across the world.
Google pledged to keep the ban on addiction treatment centers in place until the company could find a way to reintroduce ads that did not violate ethical principles and promoted good medical treatment. The banning of these PPC ads was seen as a positive step by many mental health associations. For example, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) stated that “this is a significant and welcomed move given the tremendous abuses we see on the internet.”
AdWords will once again allow addiction treatment centers to run advertisements through their PPC program. However, Google has partnered with the company LegitScript that specializes in verifying and monitoring online pharmacies. The company has a 15-point checklist to make sure businesses are licensed and compliant, list medications and treatment plans, demonstrate qualifications and professionalism.
As of August 2018, only a small group of healthcare providers have been approved by Google to appear in search results for common phrases like “help quitting pills” or “meth addiction.” In this new advertising model, only recovery and addiction centers vetted by LegitScript are allowed to have ads promoting addiction-related services or search queries on Google.
For example, the organization Recovery Centers of America (RCA), which has facilities across the U.S., was one of the first batches of approved advertisers for the AdWords PPC program. These addiction treatment providers will have to undergo an annual inspection by LegitScript in order to verify that these healthcare providers are still offering ethical and professional treatment.
Due to pressure from public groups and professional associations, Google is adding increased vetting requirements for locksmiths, garage-door repairers, drug makers and online pharmacies. After watching the backlash over Facebook and Twitter’s lack of vetting, Google has stated that it will begin seeking more documentation from political advertisers later this year.
It is noteworthy that according to the research firm Kantar Media, it is estimated that Google lost $78 million annually worth of advertising in the U.S. alone.
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Addiction Treatment, AdWords Ban, PPC Advertising