This is a guest post by Dr. Mary-Ellen McKenna ND (Inactive) the College's Regulatory Education Specialist

In response to the pressures of building a practice and meeting the financial demands of running a clinic, Members may be tempted to offer inducements to attract more patients. However, offering a discount as such an incentive, puts Members in a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest exists where a Member's interest, in this case that of a financial gain, is put before the patient's interest. The College's Conflict of Interest Guideline states that a conflict of interest exists when a Member offers incentives to encourage business transactions and thereby gain financially.

The intention of offering a discount is to entice patients into booking an appointment. However, the expectation of regulated health professional is that patients should be free to choose a provider based on relevant criteria such as reputation, skill, location, or practice style, and not on the basis of discounted services.

In addition, the Standard of Practice for Advertising does not allow Members to advertise in a way that could be interpreted as intending to promote a demand for unnecessary services. Offering discounts to encourage someone to book an appointment when they otherwise would not could be considered to be encouraging unnecessary services.

A Member however, may say that it is in a patient's interest to access naturopathic care at a reduced cost. If the Member is interested in making access more affordable they would be expected to reduce their fees for everyone, not just those who could take advantage of a discount, and reflect this on their fee schedule.

The cost of seeing a naturopath can be a barrier to some people accessing naturopathic care. In these cases, a Member may offer a sliding scale on a case-by-case basis to people who do not have the financial means to pay the full costs.

The Standard of Practice for Fees and Billing allows for a deviation from a Member's posted fee schedule when it states that the Member "ensures that any departure from an established or documented fee is consented to by the patient and document in the patient record". This reduction in the Member's fee is done on a case-by-case basis for a patient who has already made the decision to access their care. It does not apply to attracting new patients or encouraging additional patient visits.

As regulated health professionals, Members have a duty to act in the best interests of their patients and avoid any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.