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Compliance with the advertising provisions under the National Law

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As part of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (AHPRA) ongoing work to ensure compliance with the National Law’s advertising requirements, it has commenced contacting medical practitioners who AHPRA has assessed as having non-compliant website, social media and/or print advertising by letter.

While only a small number of medical practitioners will receive correspondence about non‑compliant advertising, it is important that practitioners ensure that they meet the requirement under the National Law and that the profession maintains and upholds the best standards as an exemplar amongst the regulated professions.

Medical practitioners who are contacted have 60 days to check and correct their advertising to ensure they comply with the National Law. AHPRA will check that the advertising content has been amended. If AHPRA remains concerned, it may take further action. Further non-compliance may result in a condition being placed upon a practitioner’s registration or the relevant National Board taking disciplinary action. 

If you are advertising a regulated health service, your advertising must not:

  • be false, misleading or deceptive, or likely to be misleading or deceptive; 
  • offer a gift, discount or other inducement, unless the terms and conditions of the offer are also stated; 
  • use testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business; 
  • create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment; or
  • directly or indirectly encourage the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of a regulated health service.

Examples of unacceptable advertising include:

“When I was first diagnosed, I felt there was no hope for me to survive. I had constant pain and was unable to care for myself. But then I saw Dr Smith at Wonders Day Surgery. Dr Smith agreed with my diagnosis and was able to provide treatment which saved my life. Dr Smith cured me and I have no more pain.”

“As an incentive to my existing patients to introduce their friends and family to our work, I am offering a $20 discount on their first visit! Just fill in the forms on our new website, present them to reception and get a $20 discount.”

“At the Rose Street Clinic, cosmetic and reconstructive procedures are an area of care we can provide. These simple procedures are completely safe and can be done on site.  Our cosmetic surgery procedures are guaranteed to provide consumers with the desired result.  Improve your happiness through the wonderful work at the Rose Street Clinic.” 

AHPRA has published resources on its website to support practitioners to comply with the advertising requirements. The correspondence sent to identified practitioners includes a direct link to a check, correct and comply webpage (www.ahpra.gov.au/Publications/Advertising-resources/Check-and-correct.aspx), which provides links to several resources for practitioners including common examples of non-compliant advertising and how they can be fixed.  This site also provides more details about the process for managing advertising complaints.

Complaints about advertising rose by 237.7 per cent and accounted for 75.2 per cent of all offence complaints[1] between 2014/15 and 2015/16. Almost 57.3 per cent of these complaints related to chiropractic services.  However, while most of the complaints relate to chiropractic advertising, medical practitioners also attracted some complaints. As such, the AMA advises that practitioners should make themselves aware of the guidelines.

The Medical Board of Australia has guidelines for advertising regulated health services, which can be found here http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Policies.aspx

There are also specific guidelines for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures, which can be found here http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/News/2016-09-29-revised-registration-standards.aspx

The AMA will monitor this compliance program as it develops.

Jodette Kotz
AMA Senior Policy Advisor


 

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