Self-assessment tool

A self-assessment tool to help you comply with the National Law when advertising regulated health services

The Australian public is entitled to accurate and honest information about healthcare services. Any person or business that advertises a regulated health service1 has an obligation to make sure their advertising complies with the National Law2.

This self-assessment tool is just one of the advertising resources that have been developed to help health practitioners and other advertisers meet their professional and legal obligations. It uses questions to help you assess your advertising and should be read in conjunction with the resources listed below.


1 Means a service provided by, or usually provided by, a health practitioner (as defined in the National Law).
2 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

Download a PDF of the Check and correct your advertising - Self-assessment tool  (149 KB,PDF)

The three steps to compliance – read, identify, review and change

  1. Read our resources

    All advertising resources, including National Board position statements, are published on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) website. These resources have been developed to help advertisers of regulated health services check and correct their advertising.

    They include:

  2. Identify the advertising you are responsible for

    Advertising includes, but is not limited to, any public promotion of a regulated health service to attract patients or consumers and/or encourage the use of your health service.

    It includes online advertising (including social media channels) and all print advertising (including flyers and business cards) that is within your control.

    If you (directly or as the principal health practitioner of a clinic) publish content copied from another website, or request a marketing agency or third party to draft it for you, you are responsible.

  3. Review and change

    While claims you make in advertising might be clear to you, they can be misunderstood by patients and consumers. Review your draft or published advertising using the tool below and make any necessary changes to ensure your advertising is not false, misleading or deceptive.

    Remember, it’s the consumer’s perception and understanding of your published advertising that counts. Accurate information helps consumers make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Is your advertising in breach of the National Law? Answer these questions to find out.

1. Advertising that makes treatment or health claims about what you can do (i.e. health conditions you can ‘treat’ or ‘help with’), as well as general claims about the benefits of your treatment

Does your advertising include treatment claims that are not, or may not be, supported by acceptable evidence?

What to do to comply

Remove unsubstantiated claims from your advertising. If you know a claim is not supported by acceptable evidence, then it’s likely to be misleading for patients and consumers and is not appropriate to include in advertising.

If you’re unsure, remove the claim from your advertising until you can be confident it is substantiated by acceptable evidence. This may mean reviewing the evidence base for the particular claim, consulting with colleagues and/or seeking independent advice.

Only advertise treatments supported by acceptable evidence. Find out what we mean by acceptable evidence.

Great but make sure you understand what is meant by acceptable evidence. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

Does your advertising list health conditions you or your practice can ‘help with’ or ‘treat’?

What to do to comply

Make sure your advertising makes it clear how your treatment helps each condition listed.

When the claim relates to an associated aspect of a condition it is important that the link between the condition and the associated aspect is substantiated. This includes that it is supported by acceptable evidence and that it is generally accepted that there is a link between the two.

Great! If it did, your advertising would have to clearly state how your treatment helps each condition listed. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

Does your advertising include the word ‘cure’, ‘safe’ and/or ‘effective’?

What to do to comply

Consider the use of these words very carefully as they are often used inappropriately and have a high potential to mislead or deceive when used in advertising.

Review our guidance on words to be wary about in advertising, which provides some suggestions.

 

Great! These words have a high potential to mislead or deceive when used in advertising. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

2. Advertising that offers surgical or invasive procedures or treatments provided by you or your practice

Does your advertising include information about surgical or invasive procedures that are offered at your practice?

What to do to comply

Ensure that you do not hide or trivialise risks associated with surgical or invasive procedures. This can be achieved through warnings that disclose the health risks associated with treatments such as:

‘Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks’

and/or

‘Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner’

Great! If it did, your advertising should include warnings that disclose the health risks associated with treatments. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

3. Advertising that includes information about pricing

Does your advertising use phrases like ‘as low as’ or ‘lowest prices’, or similar words or phrases when advertising fees for services, prices for products and/or price information?

What to do to comply

Consider the use of these words very carefully as they can be used inappropriately and have a potential to mislead or deceive when used in advertising.

Ensure that if your advertising includes any pricing information, that the total price is outlined, not just initial or part consultations.

Great! These words can potentially mislead or deceive when used in advertising. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

4. Advertising that makes claims about specialising in, being a specialist and/or having an endorsement

Does your advertising use the words ‘specialist’ or ‘specialises in’ or other words, letters or titles that may indicate that you hold specialist registration or are more qualified than another holder of the same registration type?

Great! You can only make such claims where you hold specialist registration or an endorsement in that area. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law. 

 

 

5. Advertising that includes references to offers or discounts (or similar inducements)

Does your advertising include references to offers and/or discounts without stating the terms and conditions?

What to do to comply

Amend these offers to include terms and conditions of the offer or discount.

Any advertisement that offers gifts, prizes or free items must state the terms and conditions of the offer. The use of unclear, unreadable or misleading terms and conditions attached to gifts, discounts and other inducements would not meet this requirement.

For example, the terms and conditions for a discount may be: ‘Terms and conditions: This offer is only available to new clients. Limit of one per client’.

 

 

Does your advertising include discounts or offers that are only available for a limited time?

What to do to comply

Ensure that the expiry date of a discount or offer is not imminent so that it does not influence a consumer to make decisions under the pressure of time and money. Offers that highlight or promote that they are time limited may directly or indirectly encourage the indiscriminate use of regulated health services.

Great but always remember to ensure in your advertising that the expiry date of a discount or offer is not imminent so that it does not influence a consumer to make decisions under the pressure of time and money. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

6. Advertising that includes references to offers or discounts (or similar inducements)

Does your advertising or any online sites you control such as your Facebook page contain testimonials?

A testimonial is a positive statement or comment provided (or purportedly provided) by a consumer about the clinical aspect of a regulated health service. You are responsible for removing testimonials on sites that you control.

What to do to comply

Delete any reviews, recommendations, patient stories, or patient reviews that contain information about clinical care, that is: about the symptom, treatment or outcome. This includes comments about the clinical competency of a practitioner.

You can also turn off the Reviews function in the Settings menu of your clinic or practice’s Facebook page.

Great! Advertising using reviews about clinical care or testimonials about the clinical competency of a practitioner are prohibited under the National Law. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

Has someone posted a review or recommendation about your service on an online review site you have no control over?

What to do to comply

There are a number of online sites that allow members of the community to provide comment on their experience. If the site is managed by another party and you have no control over the posts, then you are not responsible for the testimonial.

 

Great! Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

7. Advertising that encourages consumers to use a regulated health service

Does your advertising encourage a consumer to attend at specific timeframes or for ‘regular check-ups’?

What to do to comply

Ensure that this advice is supported by acceptable evidence.

Advertising that encourages consumers to use a regulated health service when there is no clinical justification to do so is likely to encourage the unnecessary use of health services. To do so is a breach of the National Law.

Public health-endorsed checks-ups and screenings are excluded from this requirement (such as routine dental check-ups, bowel cancer screenings or mole checks).

Great! It’s a breach of the National Law to encourage the unnecessary use of health services. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

Does your advertising encourage a consumer to attend your health service when there is no health need?

What to do to comply

Ensure that this advice is supported by acceptable evidence and does not encourage consumers to use a regulated health service when there is no clinical justification to do so as this is likely to encourage the unnecessary use of health services.

Great! If it did, this advice would need to be supported by acceptable evidence and your advertising should be amended to not encourage unnecessary use of health services. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

Does your advertising use phrases or wording that suggests urgency to attend or include promotional techniques to encourage consumers to use health services regardless of clinical need?

What to do to comply

Amend phrases such as ‘don’t delay’ and other words that may influence a consumer to make a decision under pressure of time or money. Offers that highlight or promote that they are time limited may directly or indirectly encourage the indiscriminate use of regulated health services.

Great! Now make sure you have checked your advertising against all the questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 
 
 
Page reviewed 5/02/2018