It looks like the last word has not been spoken about the AHPRA advertising guidelines.
I gave AHPRA the example I used in this blog post about what to do when a patient posts a comment on my Facebook page stating that I gave excellent treatment. Here is the answer I received today from a legal services inspector at AHPRA:
Dear Dr Kruys
Thank you for your enquiry received at AHPRA on 10 March 2014. Please be advised that neither AHPRA nor the National Boards are able to provide advertisers with legal advice about their advertising, or approve advertising, and the guidelines are not a substitute for legal advice.
As stated in the Guidelines, once a practitioner is made aware of a testimonial (which contains a statement about the quality of clinical care) on their website, or in your example, Facebook, they must take reasonable steps to remove it. AHPRA staff in each state and territory will warn individuals twice to cease conduct which may be in breach of a holding out offence prior to commencing a prosecution.
The revised guidelines went through a public consultation process and submissions were received during that process. The Guidelines for advertising of regulated health services will again be revised in the next 3 years and you are encouraged to make any submissions next time around.
So, as I suspected, we will be prosecuted if patients post friendly comments about us on social media sites, even though AHPRA said this in a media statement last Friday:
(…) there is a clear difference between advertising – which requires an intent to promote the health services – and unsolicited online comment over which practitioners do not usually have control (…). The Board recognises that practitioners are unable to control what is written about them in a public forum.
This is why AHPRA should change the guidelines immediately and not rely on media statements to clarify their ambiguous regulation.