It has come to the attention of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons’ Board that some of our members have received letters from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) highlighting breaches of their Guidelines for Advertising Regulated Health Service in relation to the use of testimonials.
To be clear, the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines state the use of testimonials are not to be used in any circumstances. This falls under Section 6 of the Guidelines: What are the advertising provisions of the National Law?
Section 133 of the National Law 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.
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 that:
- 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.
- you cannot use testimonials in advertising a regulated health service to promote a practitioner or service.
This is a difficult area to negotiate and the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has previously done internal work with their in-house legal counsel regarding the definition of a testimonial, in particular when ‘information’ becomes a testimonial. The advice was pretty strong that members should err on the side of it being a testimonial rather than not. The Snapchat debate that was raised recently with filming procedures live with patient consent revolved around the same distinction.
ASPS provides a free service to members to have their websites reviewed for compliance with the Advertising Guidelines by John Kelman. Please feel free to reach out to them directly if this is something you are interested in.
Whilst we sympathise that the market we operate in is a highly competitive space, it’s vital for the reputation of our Society that we, as Specialist Plastic Surgeons, uphold the ethics and the standards of all facets of our industry to the highest degree.
There are further approaches to AHPRA planned however for guidance however so far requests for high level meetings have been unsuccessful. In due course, ASAPS will develop a combined social media policy with ASPS however we require more specific government feedback before this can occur.
If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to the Board via Suzane Ali on 1300 027 277.