Testimonials and reviews in advertising of a regulated health service.

Testimonials and reviews in advertising of a regulated health service.

The Australian government has made it illegal to provide testimonials for regulated and non-regulated health services. ‘Testimonial’ means a statement, review, view or feedback about a service received or provided. In the context of the National Law, a testimonial involves recommendations or positive statements about clinical aspects of a regulated health service. This law was designed to protect the public.

Testimonials are prohibited for the following reasons:

  • they are often personal opinions and have no scientific or objective basis as a recommendation of a health practitioner’s services
  • the outcomes experienced by one patient do not necessarily reflect outcomes available to all consumers or the likely outcomes
  • they are not usually a balanced source of information, as they typically include a narrow selection of positive
  • comments are about patient experiences and therefore don’t tell the whole story about a practitioner’s services (i.e. they can be misleading), and
  • patients may place too much weight on testimonials because they do not have the expert knowledge to accurately assess the validity of the claims.
  • The testimonial may not be from a legitimate client but from a family member or friend to help promote the service

 

In the case of regulated health services the prohibition of testimonials is enforced by AHPRA, following Section 133(1)(c) of the National Law. For non-regulated health services, the same prohibition is in place under each State’s National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers (NCCHCW). For example: The Queensland version of NCCHCW states under Section 9.2.c: “a health care worker must not make claims either directly to clients or in advertising or promotional materials about the efficacy of treatment or service he or she provides if those claims cannot be substantiated”. To follow the reasons stated above for why testimonials are prohibited it becomes clear that non-registered practitioners are even more restricted than registered practitioners as they cannot even discuss efficacy of treatment without adequate scientific evidence with their patients let alone have restrictions just in advertising.

 

Below is a tool designed by AHPRA to assist in determining if a statement will be considered a clinical testimonial.

 

Another important aspect of the prohibition of testimonials concerns testimonials and reviews on websites. The government has recognised that practitioners do not control some review sites and has agreed that if the site is independent of the practitioner and their influence, the practitioner involved is not responsible for a review on said independent websites. However, it should also be stated that it is a breach of the law to actively ask people to review your business on these independent sites.

 

For more information on testimonials, please see:

https://www.chinesemedicineboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines/Advertising-a-regulated-health-service.aspx

https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Publications/Advertising-resources/Check-and-correct/Testimonial-tool.aspx

https://www.ahpra.gov.au/Publications/Advertising-resources/Legislation-guidelines/Summary-of-advertising-obligations.aspx

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