If you’re a health practitioner dedicated to improving the health of others, you’re probably thrilled when you receive a glowing patient review.
But did you know that publishing such a review on your professional website could land you in hot water?
Why do you have to be careful with testimonials?
According to AHPRA — The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency — testimonials are considered to be a form of advertising and there are very strict rules around advertising.
AHPRA has many roles. One of them is to protect the public by regulating Australia’s registered health practitioners. They do this by setting standards and policies that all registered health practitioners must meet. Some of these policies include advertising. This legislation is known as the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, or more commonly as the ‘National Law’.
Legislation around advertising has been developed to ensure consumers can make informed, accurate decisions about their health treatment. False, misleading and deceptive health claims — including testimonials — prevent consumers from doing this.Patient testimonials can lead to BIG fines. Find out how to make yours AHPRA compliant. Click To Tweet
What’s the problem with testimonials?
Quite simply, you’re not allowed to use or publish testimonials that talk about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service.
While it may be disappointing to learn that you can’t use a patient’s testimonial as part of your advertising, AHPRA’s position is very clear. The reasons you can’t use them are because:
- Testimonials are personal opinions about a health service that are not objective, or made with any scientific basis.
- Outcomes experienced by one, or even a few patients don’t necessarily mean that all patients will experience the same outcomes.
- Testimonials are usually biased and focus on the positive aspects of treatment and the patient experience. They usually don’t include information about all aspects of a health practitioner’s services (and therefore can be misleading).
- Potential patients may place too much weight on testimonials because they don’t have expert health and medical knowledge to assess the accuracy of these claims.
Do your testimonials include clinical aspects of care?
It can be tricky to determine if testimonials are a breach of legislation, so here is a handy tool (which appears on AHPRA’s website) to use when evaluating your patient testimonials.
If you answered ‘YES’ to any of the above, then the testimonial relates to a clinical aspect of the health service and cannot be used.Patient testimonials that mention any aspect of clinical care cannot be used to advertise a health service in Australia. Click To Tweet
Can I edit a testimonial?
If you can’t use a testimonial in full, you might be wondering if you can edit a testimonial for it to be compliant?
Well, it’s not recommended, as editing testimonials has the potential to be false, misleading or deceptive and may breach advertising requirements. In particular, you are not allowed to edit a review:
- to turn a negative one into a positive one
- that has a mix of negative and positive comments, and only publish positive comments
- so that it no longer accurately reflects the patient’s feedback.
Generally speaking, AHPRA doesn’t advise that you edit testimonials due to the high risk that edited reviews will become misleading or deceptive. Therefore, you should only publish complete and unedited reviews.
What kind of testimonials can I publish?
So what types of testimonials can you publish, if it’s illegal to publish testimonials based on clinical aspects of care, and it’s not recommended you edit reviews?
The good news is that you can publish reviews that don’t refer to clinical aspects of care.
How to get an AHPRA compliant testimonial
We all know that word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful ways of marketing, so it can be frustrating to learn you can’t use glowing testimonials of your happy, satisfied patients. However, you can gather testimonials that are AHPRA compliant.
When asking for patient testimonials, explain to your patients that if they refer to any clinical aspect of care (e.g. what they saw you for, how you treated them, how they felt after your care), then you will not be able to use it, nor edit it, due to legislation.
However, you can ask patients to review you about:
- The friendliness of your staff (be careful they don’t talk about your clinical skills)
- Cleanliness of the clinic and facilities
- Whether they felt welcomed
- How easy it was to get to the clinic
- Is there adequate parking?
- Are you near public transport?
Remember, it’s not recommended you edit testimonials, so if you’re in doubt as to whether the feedback relates to clinical services, seek legal advice, or don’t publish it.Want AHPRA compliant patient testimonials? Find out how to get them. Click To Tweet
What else should you do?
Testimonials aren’t the only thing that you need to be careful about when it comes to advertising your health service. As health practitioners are deemed to be responsible for their advertising, it is up to you to understand the legislation and ensure that ALL of your advertising is compliant.
Consequences of non-compliant advertising may include large fines, or restrictions in your registration which may impact your ability to practice.
You can find further details about AHPRA’s Advertising Guidelines on their website.
How I can help
AHPRA Compliancy Checks
Admittedly, it can be hard to understand what the rules are around AHPRA advertising and what you can and can’t publish.
That’s why I offer AHPRA Compliancy Checks.
When you book an AHPRA Compliancy Check with me, I’ll review your website (including patient testimonials) and check for any areas that may be problematic.
You’ll receive a comprehensive report outlining areas of concern, so you know EXACTLY what things you need to fix.
Of course, you can fix them yourself or engage me to do it for you.
FREE Credible Compliant Copy Checklist
If you’re more of a ‘Do-it-Yourself’ person, why not download my FREE Credible Compliant Copy Checklist – Your simple guide to meeting the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines.
This FREE guide will explain:
- What is considered to be advertising
- Why there are rules and regulations about health advertising
- What happens if you’re not compliant
- Types of advertising that are likely to land you in hot water
- Words that can be problematic in your advertising
- How you can make sure your advertising is compliant
DOWNLOAD your free copy today.
Book an AHPRA Compliancy Check to ensure your health website is compliant with AHPRA's Guidelines. Click To Tweet
I know that checking your content for AHPRA compliance is a bit of a pain in the butt. However, if you want to avoid a hefty fine, then it’s in your best interests to put it at the top of your ‘to-do’ list.
You can find out more about my AHPRA compliancy services here.
Every effort has been made to ensure information contained in this post is in line with relevant legislation and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) advertising guidelines.
The Melbourne Health Writer is not a legal professional and therefore will not be held responsible for any non-compliant advertising that may result in an audit, fine or other sanction, as a result of following the information in this post.
If you are unsure if your advertising complies with the National Law, you should seek advice from your professional association, insurer and/or independent legal adviser. We recommend you find further information about AHPRA compliance, including specific examples at https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Resources/Advertising-hub.aspx.