Getting testimonials right

AHPRA has created a new tool to help advertisers understand their obligations about using testimonials and reviews in advertising

The testimonials tool, aimed at practitioners and advertisers of regulated health services, is the latest in a series of resources and support materials developed by AHPRA and national Boards to help health providers comply with the national law.

The tool includes information and flow charts to help practitioners and advertisers understand why testimonials are not allowed and which reviews or feedback can be used in advertising.

Under section 133(1) of the National Law, a person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business.

In the context of the National Law, advertising includes any public communication that promotes a regulated health service such as all forms of printed and electronic media.

A testimonial includes recommendations or statements about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher says advertising has changed dramatically in the last decade.

“Websites and social media have increasingly evolved into major marketing tools,” he says.

“The National Boards and AHPRA recognise that these sites provide opportunities for patient feedback but advertisers have a legal and professional responsibility to make sure they don’t use testimonials unlawfully in advertising.”

Using testimonials to advertise regulated health services is prohibited under the National Law because they are not usually a balanced source of information, and typically include a narrow selection of positive comments about patient experiences.

Also, the outcomes experienced by one patient do not necessarily reflect the likely outcomes for others, so a testimonial does not tell the whole story.

“Our law bans using testimonials to advertise but there are ways advertisers can use positive patient reviews and feedback,” Mr Fletcher says.

“Comments about friendly staff, plenty of parking or extended opening hours, for example, can be used to advertise a regulated health service but under the law advertising cannot include testimonials about clinical care.

“I encourage practitioners and advertisers to use the testimonials tool to help them get it right. This means not encouraging patients to leave testimonials and removing testimonials published on websites or other online platforms which they control or administer.”

The testimonial tool is available here.

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