The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), want health and medical practitioners to know that the revised guidelines are intended to explain clearly how advertising for a regulated health service should be conducted.

These requirements are critical for public protection and help ensure that the public receives honest and accurate information in regard to healthcare services.

What You Need To Know Now?

Most of the revisions in the APHRA guidelines for advertising relate to making it easy to find information and improve its readability.

It is common knowledge that the previous guidelines were written for lawyers and not doctors.

AHPRA recognises this and so the new guidelines are written in plain language and add clear explanations rather than just re-stating the legislation.

Substantiating claims under the new guidance

AHPRA has developed a framework that determines what is acceptable in regard to any advertising claims. Medical evidence will be assessed as follows:

  • “Source- which should be publicly accessible and reliable
  • Relevance- to your advertising claim
  • Inclusion- of all relevant evidence
  • Study design- which should be at a level high enough to support your advertising claim
  • Quality and appropriateness of methodology
  • Strength”

The New AHPRA guidelines also say the following types of studies will not be considered acceptable evidence for advertising claims:

  • “Studies involving no human subjects
  • Before and after studies with few or no controls
  • Self-assessment studies
  • Anecdotal evidence based on observations in practice
  • Outcome studies or audits, unless bias or other factors that may influence the results are carefully controlled
  • Studies that are not applicable to the target population.”

There Are Rules To Using Titles

AHPRA has provided information to help you further understand the rules on using titles, specialities and qualifications – the rules, however, have not changed.

The key thing to remember is:

Dr. means Medical Doctor unless you have a PhD, then you need to be clear about your registration category and you can call yourself a Specialist only if you are registered.

What’s New with Testimonials and Reviews?

Testimonials are not allowed in advertising, this has not changed. You also cannot be held accountable for reviews on third-party sites, so long as you do not repost them or reply to them.

AHPRA has, however, indicated that they will be focusing their compliance and enforcement on testimonials that pose a substantial risk.

The new Guidelines specify that AHPRA will not be reactive

Healthcare practitioners will sign a declaration stating that their advertising is compliant before they are renewed and conduct regular audits of a sufficient sample size.

If a health practitioner is on the wrong side of being compliant,  AHPRA will be looking at:

The severity of a breach based on the risk it poses to consumers.

High-risk advertising practices, according to AHPRA:

  • Raise concerns of actual harm to consumers
  • Make misleading claims about curing serious illnesses, such as cancer or public health emergencies e.g. COVID-19
  • Target vulnerable groups, such as health advertisement directed at consumers with serious illnesses or parents of children with certain childhood conditions that are not easily treated
  • Are widespread in a profession, and have potential to have significant adverse impacts on healthcare choices, and/or
  • May also involve allegations of a person holding themselves out to be a registered health practitioner or unlawfully using a protected title.

AHPRA can take disciplinary action

Unlike criminal courts where because you are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and so sanction only comes after a guilty verdict, the Practitioner Regulation Agency can suspend a healthcare practitioner on merely the preference of a charge or certain types of complaints.

Unfortunately for the practitioner suffering that fate, the sanction is immediate, but the complaint or charge might take years to be resolved or determined in court.

Protect your practice from risks associated with breaching the AHPRA Guidelines and National Laws relating to marketing your practice with You Legal advertising framework

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As Australian medical indemnity insurance providers, we understand the intricacies and risks involved in patient- doctor relationships. We are experts in medical indemnity insurance, medical malpractice insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, gp medical indemnity insurance, medical practice insurance, and more. If you are a health practitioner with Tego, we offer 24/7 medico-legal advice and support in regards to what you need to know about the risks invoiced with receiving a gift from a patient.

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.

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