I just received this interesting response from AHPRA

AHPRAIt 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.

21 thoughts on “I just received this interesting response from AHPRA

  1. It seems Edwin as with many Govt deptartments that the right hand does not know what the left is doing. It would not surpise me that the media dept of AHPRA released that statement without informing the rest of its staff.
    You are right the only way to ensure everyone is working from the same book is to update the guidelines.

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  2. Edwin will be very worthwhile making the Australian Doctor Team aware of this reply as it is obviously at odds with what was stated on Friday

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  3. The point of confusion between the AHPRA Guideline on advertising and the AHPRA press statement last Friday seems to be around defining what is advertising. Perhaps a statement on blog and FB sites that this is not an advertisement. Perhaps we need some legal input? The ‘legal services inspector’ at AHPRA seems to consider all websites advertising.
    What’s this about the two warnings to “cease conduct which may be in breach of a holding out offence [!!??] prior to commencing a prosecution.” It’s about a testimonial which is prohibited in the Act, and unless I’m mistaken has nothing to do with a holding out offence.
    I have written more from the midwife’s perspective at http://midwivesvictoria.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/more-on-health-professionals-and.html
    I believe that a comment or birth story or youtube video that is made freely by the client should not be considered advertising, and therefore should not be called a testimonial.

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  4. I’m confused.

    If it’s a testimonial on your website, then I understand it’s breaching of guidelines. If it’s on your Facebook page, then it’s the same breach.

    But are you saying AHPRA is returning to their original guideline that a testimonial anywhere on the web is verboten? And we must make an effort to have it removed? That’s not my understanding of the guidelines currently? Who knows best?

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  5. Hi Edwin

    I am also seeking clarification from AHPRA on the requirements specifically in regard to 3rd party review sites, and the obligations of all regulated health practitioners. I will let you know the response I receive.

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  6. I have posted a couple of pictures of my skin blemish before and after surgery. If I were to state the name of my colleague who did the surgery, then state that he or she did a great job, left me with the neatest of scars, didn’t inflict too much pain.blah blah blah…..then he can be fined $5000 if I don’t change my post?

    https://www.facebook.com/mark.raines.148

    Then how does Dr Flynn justify “Rating: 5.0 out of 5 (5 is best), based on 2 reviews. Dr. Joanna Flynn has an excellent overall rating on RateMDs.com”

    I can think of some interesting uses of this AHPRA decree

    Expanding the APHRA office staff by employing people to search for positive comments

    Geeks selling “search for positive comments”

    Writing nice things about doctors you don’t really like so they get hit with a $5000 fine

    Threatening to write nice things……..

    Am I being ridiculous?

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  7. From a patients perspective …and I know I will be lambasted for this but ….. I think AHPRA are correct, and they did consult and they are protecting patients from the dr that use patients testimonials to upsell themselves for their own interest. As well… A patient can say they liked a practitioner but that is no guarantee that the practitioner is truly good, effective or efficient and safe. That is why Australia has all the other auditing processes …that patients can feed into.

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