Avoiding Trouble From Testimonials In Advertising

With patients having been in lockdown and many surgeries cancelled, specialist practices have been relying more on web and social channels to communicate with their patients. 

Navigating the restrictions on medical practitioners’ use of patient reviews and testimonials can be challenging for doctors.  Especially when patients are going online for information about their healthcare, and consumers rely on word-of-mouth references to select most goods and services.

Are testimonials ever allowed?

Simply the answer is no if they refer to the clinical aspects of care. You should not use a testimonial that refers to a clinical aspect of care – whether that is a solicited or unsolicited testimonial in your own advertising, including on your website and social media.

The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) says that health practitioners must not advertise a service provided by, or usually provided by, a health practitioner (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. This applies across print, website, radio, television, social media, and any other form of advertising.

However, AHPRA has made a distinction between ‘testimonials’ and ‘reviews’ indicating that reviews about “friendly staff, plenty of parking or extended opening hours, for example” is permitted.

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What if a testimonial includes clinical and non-clinical information?

In theory, you may be able to publish just the non-clinical information. However, the line can be a fine one.

AHPRA, in its check-and-correct guide, recommends publishing only complete and unedited reviews (being feedback about healthcare experiences that does not refer to clinical aspects of care) to avoid breaching the National Law requirements.

Should you allow patients to leave reviews on our site?

The safest course of action may be to make sure that your website and social media platform settings do not allow users to leave comments.  

Can patients leave reviews on third-party websites?

The prohibition on testimonials under the National Law does not prevent patients from sharing views through Google reviews pages, ratings sites or other third-party websites.

You are not required to request that positive comments be removed from other platforms that are outside your control. However, you should not repost any compliments from these platforms on your own web page or social media platforms, as this will be seen as breaching the prohibition on testimonials.

Online and social platforms are increasingly used by doctors to connect with patients. It can be challenging to navigate the line between social engagement and professional advertising, so it is important doctors understand where that line is currently being drawn.

Protecting your practice – Tego 

As medical indemnity insurance providers in Australia, we will cover your practice with medical indemnity insurance, medical malpractice insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, medical practice insurance, GP medical indemnity insurance, and more. If you are a medical practitioner with Tego, your medical indemnity insurance comes with 24/7 medico-legal advice and support to guide you through the perils of telehealth.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitutes legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss su­ffered in connection with the use of this information.