AHPRA summary of advertising obligations

For those professions registered with AHPRA we are well aware, and often quite irritated by, the advertising restrains imposed. From what I understand speech pathologist have comparable obligations under SPA. If we can park our individual and collective opinions about these rules, like them or loathe them, we do need to know them and comply with them. Hopefully, it wasn’t just me that recently received the current AHPRA glossy mail out?

Here is my summary.

The full Guidelines for advertising regulated health services are available online and I strongly encourage you to read them. Better still hit print and take them to your team meeting for hearty discussion. They will play a small part towards future NDIS audit activities. The rules:

  1. Advertising must not be false, misleading or deceptive.
  2. Any claims made in advertising must be able to be substantiated
  3. When advertising offers a gift, discount or other inducements, it must be accompanied by the terms and conditions
  4. Advertising must not include testimonials about a service or business
  5. Advertising must not create unreasonable expectations of beneficial treatment
  6. Advertising must not directly or indirectly encourage the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services
  7. Advertising should not say a practitioner is a registered specialist if they are not or claim that they specialize in treating a health condition.

 

The Self Assessment tool is really interesting. It outlines three steps towards compliance, then seven questions to measure your self against each of the rules mentioned above. It is really clear and easy to work on this self-assessment document and highly recommended. My thoughts include:

If you were put on the spot how would you present the evidence for the services you promote to the public, do groups really work?, does sensory gym work promote ADL performance? does school-based service work? So many questions and how informed are your answers and those of your team. The evidence-based practice is a question clinicians wrangle daily. On the flip side, when businesses proclaim they deliver use best practice and evidence-based practice therapy, what do their services look like? Over to you to discuss this passionately, I only wish I was in the room to join in.

 

On many websites and flyers, I see lists of conditions that the practice can help with and treat. The self-assessment document suggests that not having these is the best way to comply with guidelines. This got me interested as I hadn’t ever considered this. If you do have health/medical conditions listed, it is suggested that you make clear how you treat each condition or aspects of each condition and that there is acceptable evidence to do so. Over to you to research this one.

 

Words to be wary of

Do you use words like, ‘cure’, ‘safe’ or ‘effective’? then the guidelines indicate that it is best if you don’t. There is a further list of word to be wary of, take a glance it is interesting. For my two bobs worth please stop using ‘paediatrics’; we work with children and families. My campaign on this front continues.

 

Claims about specializing in, being a specialist and or having an endorsement. Now I have some real airspace on using the word paediatric, neuro, sensory etc…. therapist. From what I read the devil is in the detail on this one and yes we will all have our opinions. I didn’t complete a degree in Paediatric OT (is there one?) so I can’t call myself one, never have, never will.  I have an interest in serving children and families and extensive post-grad training and experience in the area which I can easily share with current and future referrers and clients. I’d love to know where you stand on this one, a recent Facebook video I posted did stir conversation.

 

We already know that we cant advertise offers, discounts, inducements and time-limited offers. If you do your compliance is enhanced with the provision of terms and conditions. My interest in this rule has been heightened in the light of more and more business owners providing retail products as part of the service offer. I am also curious about how Early Bird rates for workshops, groups, services are tackled under these requirements.

 

Testimonials

We know all about this one and have done for years. I continue to be amused at the number of private practice owners who have them on their websites. How so? There are lots of other ways to capture and share client stories and the outcomes you achieve with them. Time to get creative. Tell me, do you ‘dob in’ those business’s using testimonials?

 

Reviews and recommendations posted by others

This is a hard one to stop, but for compliance sake, you are apparently required to remove online testimonials and recommendations on sites that you can control. With a membership you can do this on Clickability, you can turn off many and various commentary and rating mechanisms across google and social media.

 

Do you encourage consumers to attend at specific time frames for regular check-ups?

No, is the correct response to this one. This can continue to be part of your service when there is acceptable evidence for the checkup. Included here is whether your advertising encourages the consumer to attend your health services when there is no apparent need or when an urgency is implied. First to confess that these ones were new to me.

 

There you have it. A super quick run through of the regulations and self-assessment. Please, please, please don’t take my word for it all and invest the time and reflection to work through all the clear documents available online.

How clear are you about your advertising obligations and the adjustments you may need to make?

What are your next steps?

If you would like to discuss this further with me, head on over to my calendar to book a complimentary 30 min phone call with me. I’d love a chat!

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