We published this article a few years ago but felt that, because MIGA continues to receive enquiries from clients that relate to issues with advertising, and AHPRA’s focus on this aspect of health practice, it was valuable to offer it again.
It can feel like a tough balancing act to promote your business but not run afoul of AHPRA’s Guidelines. The nature of advertising means that often complaints to AHPRA come from clients, whose expectations have not been managed.
Websites and social media have become a significant part of business advertising and it is important that you satisfy yourself that you understand the Regulations set down under the National Law and that you are not in breach of that law.
The National Law Act 2009 expressly states:
A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that – uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business.
The National Law does not define ‘testimonial’, so the word has its ordinary meaning of a positive statement about a person or thing. In the context of the National Law, a testimonial includes recommendations, or statements about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service.1
The National Law ban on using testimonials means it is not acceptable to use testimonials in your own advertising, such as on your Facebook page, in a print, radio or television advertisement, or on your website. This means:
- You cannot use or quote testimonials on a site or in social media that is advertising a regulated health service, including patients posting comments about a practitioner on the practitioner’s business website, and
- You cannot use testimonials in advertising a regulated health service to promote a practitioner or service. Health practitioners should therefore not encourage patients to leave testimonials on websites health practitioner’s control that advertise their own regulated health services, and should remove any testimonials that are posted there.
Case Studies and birth stories
Case studies (written by the midwife) and birth stories (written by clients) can provide valuable messages and insights for potential and current clients. If you incorporate these into your advertising (website, Facebook) it is recommended that you review the entries for any possible breaches.
How NMBA deals with breaches and penalties
The Nursing and Midwifery Board will issue an escalating series of written warnings to the midwife, initially reminding them of their obligations in relation to advertising. If no corrective action is taken, the Board may ultimately take legal action against them for non-compliance with the Board’s standards. This may include limiting, suspending or cancelling a midwife’s registration and their ability to practise.
A registered health practitioner, or a business providing a regulated health service, whose advertising breaches the National Law, may be liable for a $5,000 penalty (for an individual) or $10,000 (for a body corporate).
So if anything you do in your practice constitutes ‘advertising’, we recommend that you:
- Familiarise yourself with the guidelines (see the Link below)
- Review all your advertising outlets (particularly websites)
- Satisfy yourself that you comply
- Call MIGA’s Risk Management team if you aren’t sure or would like advice.
Check the Guidelines
The guidelines have been developed to help practitioners and others understand their obligations when advertising a regulated health service.