Self-assessment tool

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

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 Law.2

This self-assessment tool is just one of the advertising resources that has been developed to help health practitioners and other advertisers meet their professional and legal obligations. Questions to help you assess your advertising 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).

The 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 any advertising you are responsible for

    Advertising includes, but is not limited to all forms of verbal, printed or electronic public communication that promotes a regulated health service provider to attract a person to the provider (practitioner or business). 
     
    It includes online advertising (including social media channels) and all print advertising (including flyers and business cards) that is within your control. 

    Advertisers are responsible for their advertising, so they need to check any content produced by others on their behalf

  3. Review and change

    While claims you make in advertising might be clear to you, they can be misunderstood by the public. 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 or otherwise in breach of the advertising requirements.

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

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

 

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 not supported by acceptable evidence?

How to comply

Remove unsubstantiated claims from your advertising. Any claim that is not supported by acceptable evidence is likely to be misleading for the public and must not be included in your 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. 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’?

How to comply

Make sure your advertising is clear about 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.

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’, ‘effective’ or similar words?

How to comply

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

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.

 

 

Advertising that offers high-risk procedures or treatments provided by you or your practice

Does your advertising include information about the risk or potential risk associated with treatments or procedures that are offered at your practice?

How to comply

That’s great. Just make sure that you do not minimise, underplay or under-represent the risk or potential risk associated with a treatment or procedure. 

You should ensure  your advertising does not mislead the public about the  risks associated with the procedures or treatment. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

Advertising that includes information about pricing

Does your advertising refer to the prices of your services?

How to comply

Ensure that if your advertising includes pricing information, that the total price is outlined, not just initial or part consultations, and any other terms and conditions associated with price are also outlined.

Great. If it did, your advertising would have to ensure the total price is outlined, and any other terms and conditions associated with the price. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

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 when you do not, or are more qualified than another holder of the same registration type?

How to comply

Review these to make sure you only make claims where you hold specialist registration or an endorsement in that area.

If you are registered in a profession, but you do not hold specialist registration, remove references that may mislead or deceive the public into thinking that the National Board has recognised you as being more qualified or competent than someone else with the same registration.

If you do not hold specialist registration, any advertising using words or titles related to specialty, such as ‘specialist’, ‘specialises in’ or ‘specialised’ is likely to mislead the public to believe you hold a type of specialist registration approved under the National Law. Words such as ‘substantial experience in’ or ‘working primarily in’ are less likely to be misleading.

While ‘doctor’ is not a protected title, make sure that if you use the title ‘doctor’ and you are not a medical practitioner, you also state your profession. For example, Dr Jones (dentist) or Dr Lin (chiropractor).

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.

 

 

Advertising that includes offers of gifts or discounts (or similar inducements)

Does your advertising offer gifts and/or discounts without stating the terms and conditions?

How to comply

Amend these offers to include the terms and conditions of the offer of the gift 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’.

It may not be possible in some advertising to display the terms and conditions alongside an offer of a gift, discount or inducement. In this case the offer should direct the public to the location of the terms and conditions, such as through a link or directions to the section of the advertiser’s website that contains the terms and conditions. This allows for an advertiser’s full terms and conditions to be stated.

Advertisers must ensure that terms and conditions are easily found and accessible. The public should not be required to exhaustively search for or contact the advertiser for terms and conditions.

 

Great. If you did you would need to make sure the terms and conditions are stated and are clearly visible. Now continue to check your advertising against the remaining questions in this self-assessment tool to ensure it is compliant with the National Law.

 

 

Advertising that includes testimonials

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

A testimonial is a recommendation or positive statement about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service used in advertising. You are responsible for removing testimonials on sites that you control.

How to comply

Delete any reviews, recommendations, patient stories, or patient reviews that contain information about clinical aspects of a regulated health service, that is: about the symptom, diagnosis, treatment or outcome. 

Not all social media sites allow for editing or removal of testimonials. However you may be able to disable the reviews/testimonials functions. 

Great. Advertising using testimonials 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?

How to comply

There are a number of online sites that allow members of the public to comment on their experience. You are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) testimonials published on platforms you do not control or on sites that are not advertising a regulated health service. 

However, you should be careful about responding to reviews on those platforms because by doing so you may be using that testimonial to advertise your service.

 

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.

 

 

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’?

How 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 indication or therapeutic benefit to do so is likely to encourage the unnecessary use of regulated health services. This is a breach of the National Law.

Public health-endorsed check-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?

How to comply

Ensure that this advice is supported by acceptable evidence and that your advertising does not encourage consumers to use a regulated health service when there is no clinical indication to do so as this is may 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?

How to comply

You need to ensure that your advertising does not create an impression or a sense of urgency that is linked to a person’s health suffering if they do not use a regulated health service, where there is no clinical indication to support this.

Amend words or phrases such as ‘don’t delay’, ‘act now before it’s too late’, ‘don’t miss out’, ‘time is running out’, or ‘for a limited time only’ where they are linked to unsubstantiated claims that a person’s health may suffer if they do not use a regulated health service.

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 14/12/2020