The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has just released a healthcare advertising checklist. Amongst the usual responsible advertising guidelines, there’s a kind reminder about testimonials and reviews. Any patient testimonials, stories, recommendations or reviews about clinical care are prohibited in all forms of advertising. There can be no mention of the presenting symptoms, treatment carried out or the outcome of the treatment. There can be nothing mentioning or even alluding to the clinical competency of the health practitioner.
The contradicting aspect about this is that the health practitioner is responsible only for advertising that we can control. This means any form of advertising from print to media, in-house or outsourced to a third party. It also includes online sites such as the practice website, as well as social media pages like our Facebook page. We are told to delete all testimonials and reviews and turn off the review function in the settings if this is possible.
However, there are numerous online sites with absolutely no association with us that do the same things that AHPRA don’t want health practitioners doing. These sites display patient testimonials and ask for patient reviews. They deliberately ask the community to comment on their experience with us, on our clinical care. They ask them to give us a star rating, usually out of a maximum five stars.
It seems the rule stopping health practitioners from using testimonials and reviews is a little redundant. If testimonials and reviews are widely available from a range of other sources, does it really matter if these are on a health practitioner’s advertising? The testimonials and reviews on a health practitioner’s advertising will always be positive and full of self praise you may say. No one in their right mind will talk badly about themselves when trying to market their practice. However, potential patients doing their research will no doubt look for testimonials and reviews from independent third parties. Debatable or not, we will just have to abide by the guidelines set by AHPRA.