Aspen Marketing --
Quid pro Quo -- Power of Referrals
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Before we criticize Aspen/ CRC Health Group for this we need to acknowledge that we are addressing a gray area where there is little in the way of defined standards. We don’t like what Aspen does. However we are not claiming that they are clearly breaking any generally accepted “rules.” Most schools and programs sometimes refer to other programs and to referring professionals.
The problem is that if fee based referral sources like educational consultants get business from people referred to them by Aspen or any school or program, the temptation is strong for that educational consultant to favor that company or school or program making referrals.
It is an all too common marketing practice to use the ability to make such referrals as an incentive to refer back. Referrals of this kind have been solidly criticized by some, but have not been directly addressed either by NATSAP or IECA. Both condemn referrals in exchange for an item of value, and a referral of paying business is an item of value, but it hard to prove that there is actually an "exchange" even when each is referring to the other. IECA does address referral agreements as inappropriate for member consultants.
We doubt that Aspen has any formal referral agreements with consultants. If Aspen simply continuously rewards educational consultants who refer to them, without a formal “agreement” in place, this appears to be against the spirit of the rule, but ambiguous as to whether or not there is a violation of NATSAP’s regulations impacting the programs or at IECA impacting the educational consultants. If there is a specific violation, it would appear to be hard to prove.
Some critics condemn all referrals to a service that has potential to return the referral, presuming that all such referrals are corrupt. We disagree with that because that standard would sometimes preclude referral to the best provider of service, although we agree with those critics that making and accepting such referrals creates both a strong temptation to establish a quid pro quo and an appearance of conflict of interest. We agree with the critics that engaging in cross referral is ethically a very slippery slope that is very often abused.
It is difficult pin things down firmly. FamilyLight sm does its best to avoid influence from this sort of thing. We do accept some referrals from schools and programs. Schools and programs may refer an educational consultant when they get an inquiry from a parent who is not appropriate to them and when someone is ready to move on to another venue.
think most programs can easily discern from our behavior that we do not
consider who refers to us when we decide to whom we will refer.
Therefore we do not get many referrals from schools and programs,
although we do get a few. However,
Sometimes Aspen will simply do the job themselves and refer to another Aspen program including one that simply is not equipped to do the job. See the section addressing that situation.
Navigating the Aspen Marketing article
Too often we hear of clinicians advising parents that sending their child to a therapeutic program away from home is only a good idea if it is an Aspen program. Clinicians and other referring professionals who give that advice are likely falling victim to . . . (more)
2. Web Advertising. A further example of where we would like to see improvement at Aspen/ CRC Health Group involves their web advertising. We saw temporary improvement about the time we previously called public attention to this, but it appears the problem is back, or maybe it never left and we just missed it. (more)
pro quo marketing.
Quid pro quo marketing is
providing some incentive, often an item of value in exchange for
business. It is not like the
“cents off” coupon from your neighborhood grocery store; it is more like
means of attracting referrals from supposedly neutral referral sources
by providing some incentive to bias in the favor of the facility
marketed. We are not
accusing Aspen or
CRC Health Group of actual payoffs or
referral fees to educational consultants.
We will let you decide whether or not what we describe crosses
any troubling lines.
Aspen, to its great credit, commissioned an extensive outcome study blanketing its schools, excluding its wilderness programs. The problem arises when the study is used to convince others of the effectiveness of one school or treatment center, ignoring the fact that the results of many schools have been lumped together. (more)
a person is referred to an Aspen school or program, upon completion of
Feedback is invited. We will publish selected feedback. Email FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com
Disclaimer: No program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation. When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree. When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source. We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance. It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines. Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.
Last revised April 9, 2010
"Solutions, Not Just Referrals"
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