The Do’s and Don’ts of Advertising Rules and Regulations for a Medical Service – An Overview and a Quick Quiz
The following summary of Advertising Rules and other resources is provided for Practice Managers, Doctors, Surgeons and also team members working within Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Practices in Australia.
It is also essential reading for their Advertising and Marketing Agencies. Generally, a lot of new practice staff and agencies are unaware of the many regulations concerning medical advertising. In order to avoid a complaint letter and investigation by AHPRA or TGA please comply with the following standards.
Above all, if you are unsure or require clarification it is important to contact your Medical Association or a medical lawyer for assistance and reassurance. This presentation was informally delivered at an ASAPS Practice Managers Lunch.
LATEST UPDATE – December 14 2020 – AHPRA has Provided additional guidance about the use of Testimonials in Advertising.
Surgeons are bound to comply with the NATIONAL LAWS and REGULATIONS set by these different organisations
- AHPRA. Also known as the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority
- Medical Board of Australia & National Boards. Specifically, Code of Conduct & Guidelines.
- Dept of Health – TGA – Therapeutic Goods Authority – Drug Rules
- ACCC – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – False Advertising and Claims
- RACS. Or, Royal Australian College of Surgeons (if you are a RACS surgeon) e.g. (Also, Code of Conduct)
- DHS – MBSONLINE – E.g. Medicare Code Rules & Audits. What can be claimed?
- AVANT. Or, other Insurance Company Guidelines from your medical indemnity insurer.
- ASPS. Australasian Society of Plastic Surgeons (if you are a member) Code of Practice
- ASAPS – Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons – Guiding Principles
- ISAPS – International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons – Code of Conduct
- GOOGLE Ads & FACEBOOK advertising limitations on what can be shown or advertised. Specifically around medical claims and ‘body shaming’.
- MTAA. Or, Medical Technology Assoc of Australia – e.g. regarding sponsorship, gifts and other “rewards” for a medical practitioner
With this in mind, it’s also important to remember that all the other normal laws of Australia still apply as well.
A BASIC SUMMARY OF KEY MEDICAL ADVERTISING RULES
- Firstly, patient PHOTOS can not be used without their explicit consent. In other words, you must have patient consent for use in images and videos – Patient Privacy concerns
- Before and after patient PHOTOS must not be misleading. In other words, photos must have consistent lighting, good photo technique, similar background, similar posture and clothing, etc.
- There must also be a clear RISK LABEL (e.g. always seek a second opinion) or MESSAGE wherever any invasive procedure is discussed – your photos, facebook, social media, website etc (AHPRA requirement)
- Promoting and mentioning of prescription DRUG NAMES, nicknames or products (like Botox, Xeomin, Dysport, Juvederm, Restylane, even Brotox) is NOT ALLOWED by TGA
- As well as drug brand names, GENERIC DRUG names and INGREDIENTS (e.g. botulinum toxin, hyaluronic acid) even the word collagen are also prohibited
- Under no circumstances can you use misleading or EXAGGERATED CLAIMS (e.g. miracle cures, painless treatments, instant recovery, totally safe procedure) – you need medical proof
- No using of Patient TESTIMONIALS (defined as “positive statements”) – No Patient REVIEWS on Websites (see the guide below on what is a testimonial) – See Updated definition Dec 14 2020.
- No PATIENT REVIEWS on websites directly controlled by the doctor – e.g. your own website and Facebook.
A BASIC SUMMARY OF KEY MEDICAL ADVERTISING RULES continued
- Explicit FINANCE OFFERS or LINKS to offers from Finance companies are PROHIBITED. See AHPRA finance guideline pdf below.
- “INDUCEMENTS to surgery” are not allowed under the RACS code of conduct for surgeons. This includes specials, deals and offers for surgeries. However, it is OK for non-surgical skin treatments.
- REWARDING REFERRERS for their patient referrals is also prohibited (Especially medical referrers)
- It’s important you don’t make ‘over the top’ CLAIMS of expertise like “Australia’s Best Surgeon” or “ Best Breast Surgeon” (RACS code of conduct / Medical Colleges)
- Patient INFORMATION storage can not be ‘in the cloud’ on servers outside of Australia (without proper consent)
- Do not claim to be a RESTRICTED TITLE person unless you are. Some professional titles like “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” or using wording like “specialist” and also “Specialises in” has restrictions.
- Appropriate DISCLAIMERS and warning statements must be used. Not only on websites but also on your photographs.
- Above all, you can not encourage excessive or INAPPROPRIATE USE of medical procedures
There are also different advertising rules for cosmetic dentists (Non-medical board) and cosmetic surgeons (Non-RACS/ASPS/ASAPS members). Especially around Botox and Finance Offers.
Different rules also apply in different countries – like New Zealand, Canada and USA – so be careful using any ad agencies and campaigns from overseas and do your research accordingly.
With this in mind, if you are unsure about what is allowed in Australia – Seek advice from your Association or Medical Insurer like Avant.
ASPS Guidelines Summary
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has a great page with links to all the medical advertising regulation guidelines. For this reason, we have added the link below:
AVANT INSURANCE also has some great Resources for Practices – Advertising: not only online but also offline and social media
- Advertising regulations for medical practices
- Responsibilities in the practice
- Warning statements
- Advertising of price information
- Social media marketing
MEDICAL BOARD RULES
AHPRA Guidelines for advertising regulated health services
- Advertising Guidelines
- Summary of Advertising Obligations
- Social Media Guidance
- What Health practitioners and Healthcare Providers need to know
- FAQ Guidelines for Cosmetic Procedures
AHPRA Testimonial Tool
AHPRA SOCIAL MEDIA Policy Guidelines
ADVERTISING RULES & REGULATIONS – A useful Summary Article
Aesthetic Medical Practitioner – Australian medical advertising regulations are you in the clear? April 20, 2017 –
This great article helps to explain advertising guidelines and the use of Social media influencers, advertising and social media including Facebook advertising regulations, advertising medicines to consumers, Advertising prices as well as, credentials.
TAKE THE ADVERTISING RULES & ETHICS QUIZ
Here is a Practice Operations and Ethical Advertising Rules Quiz for your New Doctors, Practice Team Members, and also for Advertising Staff.
MARKETING QUIZ – Basics on Advertising Rules
- Can you REWARD a PATIENT or MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL for giving you a patient referral?
- Can you offer a SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCER discounted or free surgery in exchange for promotion?
- What are the rules around using BEFORE AND AFTER PATIENT PHOTOS online?
- Can you use REAL PATIENT PHOTOS in your marketing?
- Can you use other surgeons’ PATIENT PHOTOS in your marketing?
- Should you post group PATIENT EVENTS PHOTOS or VIDEO online?
- Can you offer FINANCE / PAYMENT PLANS for surgery? – Where and how?
MARKETING QUIZ – Reviews and Testimonials
- Can you actively ASK patients for a REVIEW or a testimonial?
- Can you selectively ASK Patients for Reviews? (review gating)
- What REVIEWS can you have on your own website?
- Can you SHARE or retweet a patient testimonial? A patient story, a case study?
- Can you have PATIENT REVIEWS on Facebook?
- Can you respond to a PATIENT REVIEW on Google – Good or Bad review?
- How can you remove a BAD REVIEW? Should you?
- Can you SUE someone for a BAD REVIEW?
- Can you SUE a patient for reputation damage?
MARKETING QUIZ – Copywriting tips for Ads & Website
- Can you offer DISCOUNTS on surgery in your advertising?
- Can you say you are an “expert in”?
- Which words can you use in advertising – COLLAGEN – BOTOX – GALDERMA?
- Can you advertise that a product is “TGA approved”?
- Can you use words like BEST implants, SAFEST or SAFE Implants when advertising?
- Should you claim to be the BEST or TOP or a LEADING Surgeon?
- Can you say that your specialist plastic surgeon “Specialises in” a procedure?
- Can you say that someone “specialises in” a procedure?
MARKETING QUIZ – ETHICS
- Should your own practice staff write TESTIMONIALS or REVIEWS about your clinic?
- Can you offer a “SPECIAL PACKAGE DEAL” for surgery?
- Should practice staff write any REVIEWS – good or bad – about other Clinics?
- Should Practice Staff actively promote and advocate for their surgeon on a FORUM SITE like PSHub?
- Can you raffle off or auction off PLASTIC SURGERY AS A PRIZE?
- Can you raffle off or auction off INJECTABLES AS A PRIZE?
- Should you “BAD MOUTH” an underqualified Practitioner in practice or online?
PRIVACY & CYBERSECURITY QUIZ
- Should you take patient PICTURES ON YOUR MOBILE PHONE?
- Should you SMS patient pictures? What about urgent cases needing treatment?
- Should you send PATIENT PICTURES BY EMAIL?
- How often should you change your PASSWORDS & LOGINS?
- Should you use OVERSEAS HOSTED software?
- Should you plug USB STICKS into your laptop?
- How often should you BACKUP YOUR DATA? Where?
CONSULTS & MEDICARE CODING QUIZ
- Should you use 104 CONSULT FEE medicare rebate for a purely cosmetic BA consultation?
- Can you offer to take your CONSULT FEE off surgery price as an incentive?
- How long does a GP or SPECIALIST REFERRAL last for?
- What are the rules around using the 105 CONSULT code?
- Should a male plastic surgeon have a chaperone?
COOLING OFF PERIOD QUIZ (Waiting Time Consult to Surgery)
- What is the “cooling off period” and how long does it last?
- When does the “cooling off period” start?
- Does the cooling-off period start from a “virtual consult” before a real consult?
QUESTIONS ABOUT PRACTICE ETHICS
- Should you do a GA surgical procedure on a FAMILY MEMBER?
- Should you do a GA surgical procedure on a STAFF MEMBER?
- Can a Surgeon DATE a PATIENT? (A past Patient? – EVER date one in future?)
- Should you offer a STAFF SALES INCENTIVE for making surgery bookings?
- Can a surgeon DATE A RELATIVE of a patient?
- Is a surgeon able to DATE THE PARENT of a patient who is under or over 18?
- Can a Dentist DATE A PATIENT?
For more detailed advice contact your Professional Society or Association.
With this in mind, if you find any mistakes, have suggestions, or just want the real answers to the Quiz – please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.