AHPRA’s advertising and social media policy

AHPRA (regulating our health practitioner registration) has invited comments on its revised guidelines for advertising and its proposed Social Media policy …Check out here…

This is really a unique activity and complex issue for AHPRA because it is the only area of its regulatory role where practitioners can see other practitioners actions. Just a simple search in Google will show the ease in which you can find breaches to all parts of the National Board’s advertising code. (Try in “best dentist Melbourne discount voucher”)

For example:

  1. Misleading phrases – “less than 1/2 of what you would expect to pay”
  2. Best dentist in Melbourne (there are quite of few of them – some even have an award to prove it!)
  3. Patient testimonials – some on web sites; some Google + reviews
  4. Discounts which breach Board guidelines
  5. Encouraging unnecessary use of regulated health services – get rid of ugly restorations etc.

The problem for National Boards is that reacting only to complaints for advertising guideline breaches is a bit like the police waiting for someone to complain about speeding cars. People who get prosecuted simply will see themselves as unlucky.

Other ‘real’ issues for AHPRA include:

  • Context: The very same ‘Qualification and memberships’ that might be appropriate and useful for connecting like minded individuals in LinkedIn ¬†could be seen as deceptive or ‘big noting’ yourself on a business web site.
  • Testimonials: In todays world Facebook “like” or Google ranking can be a more effective and widely regarded testimonial than a written testimonial on your web site. Google + reviews are widespread on the internet now.¬†Facebook is based on likes and every like is a testimonial. If my sister-in-law thanks me for the help looking after her children’s dental health via Facebook does that also constitute a testimonial?
    If your LinkedIN page has an endorsement for you as a dentist – is that a testimonial?
  • Indiscriminate or unnecessary use of a regulated health service: Who decides what is unnecessary or indiscriminate? What is cosmetic dentistry? One local dental website encourages patients to get rid of “ugly” old fillings!

Are these unsolvable issues? Are we just heading down the path of USA medical advertising? What would be a constructive helpful submission for AHPRA?