17 Nov 2020
Advertising is something we are all exposed to in our day-to-day lives and this includes advertising by health practitioners for their services.
The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) will today release advance copies of the revised Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service and the updated Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme, to help health practitioners advertise responsibly.
In this latest episode of Ahpra’s Taking Care podcast, we discuss some of the risks, opportunities and nuances of advertising regulated health services. What should we, as members of the public, think about the advertising we’re exposed to? For health practitioners, what is appropriate advertising and why is it important to get it right?
Anne Burgess, a community member, ChiroBA; Dr Dominic Aouad, a dental practitioner in Sydney who provides education on compliance and regulation; and Ruanne Brell, senior solicitor, Medicolegal Advisory Service, Avant join host Susan Biggar for this episode. Our guests speak about the importance of responsible advertising; the increasing use of social media; testimonials; protected titles; prizes, gifts and inducements; third party sites; and possible consequences for practitioners and other advertisers who don’t do the right thing.
Regulation of advertising occurs to protect the public when they are making healthcare choices, said Anne Burgess. ‘It might be that we’ve had conventional treatment; and nothing’s worked for us and we’re drawn in by advertising that might make false claims. In protecting the public from false and misleading claims it’s really important that there’s some regulation behind that.’
Dr Dominic Aouad said when advertising a regulated health service, it’s important not to bias the decision-making by the patient. ‘If you’re offering a prize or reward for seeking or having a certain or particular treatment that does raise some concerns around whether or not that was the best treatment modality for that patient.’
Advertising is used to attract consumers to a service, so it involves business promotion, but this needs to be balanced against legal and professional responsibilities, and professional codes of conduct and ethical considerations, said Ruanne Brell. ‘Practitioners and practices are like any other business in wanting to reach their patients and potential patients. It’s a really great way of letting them know about the services they offer, what might be available and also used, to educate them about what treatments or options that may be available that people may not be aware of.’
Practitioners need to be familiar with the requirements of the revised advertising guidelines to ensure their advertising complies with the National Law, said Anne Burgess. ‘I would really encourage people to look at the advertising guidelines; there’s lots of examples to work through and make sure you’re compliant.’
Social media is a form of advertising much like print media or more traditional methods, so it is important to still follow the National Law and the guidelines and just be really careful about what you do, said Ruanne Brell.
‘It is one of the areas where I think the casual context of social media can maybe allow some of those boundaries and responsible advertising to fall by the wayside or get overlooked a little bit and overcome by the casual nature of the platform. Ahpra has a really useful piece of guidance about using social media and how to use it responsibly which all practitioners and practices should have a look at and become familiar with.’
‘The vast majority want to do the right thing and inform their patients in ways to improve their health. With the new guidelines coming out and with that desire to be better and do better, I’m really looking forward to having platforms and ways to communicate with our patients in more responsible and informative ways,’ Dr Aouad said.
The revised Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service and the updated Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme take effect from Monday 14 December 2020 and are now available on the National Boards’ and Ahpra websites.
Download and listen to the latest Ahpra Taking care podcast episode today. Ahpra releases a new episode every fortnight, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking Care’ in your podcast player.
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