The Total Medical Design Guide to Advertising Regulations for Healthcare Businesses

Consumers And Users

Owning and operating a healthcare business in Australia can often feel like walking through a field of landmines. The landmines, or rather advertising regulatory standards, can seem rather complex at first. However, in this clear and simple guide by Total Medical Design, you will gain a deeper understanding of your regulatory obligations for marketing and advertising in the health sector in Australia.

We’re talking about advertising in the broadest sense of the word

Advertising standards in the health industry are set by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA).

Advertising is classified as any action by your business that draws attention to itself. In practice, advertising could be conducted in endless numbers of ways. Your business could employ someone to do sign writing in the sky – that’s advertising. Or advertising could be simply adding your business details to an online directory website.

Medical practices in Australia aren’t allowed to use testimonials in their advertising

Testimonials are comments left by previous customers or patients about your medical practice. These comments recount the personal objective experiences of individuals. This means that testimonials are unlikely to be balanced and informed sources of information.

Patients often place undue emphasis on testimonials because of their lack of knowledge about health and specialist medicine. These patients often lack the knowledge to properly validate any scientific claims on health websites.

This means prospective customers and patients are vulnerable to being misled by testimonials in medical and healthcare advertising that is inaccurate and misleading. The regulation aims to protect these patients.

Who is responsible for advertising in a healthcare business?

It doesn’t matter if you have employed an agency to help with advertising. The responsibility for advertising still lays with the principle health practitioner at the clinic or business.

Monitoring and removing patient comments or feedback

Healthcare and medical businesses in Australia are expected to monitor all “owned” media. To clarify, owned media is media that was set up and managed by the health business themselves. Examples of owned media would be a website, e-newsletter, promotional print marketing, video or radio advertising or Google ads.

Principle health practitioners will need to keep an eye out for instances where customers provide comments or feedback that could be classified as a testimonial that are located within “owned’ media.

patients Comments

Patient comments that aren’t owned by your business – not your problem

When a comment or customer feedback is located on a third party website or social media channel outside of the control of your business, you don’t need to request the removal of that piece of content.

Although if you do decide to copy and use content from or third party sources – then the APRA regulations will apply to this content.

When you cannot use a patient comment as a testimonial

When a customer mentions a clinical aspect of your medical practice (either overtly or indirectly), then this quote or commentary cannot be used as a testimonial for advertising. More specifically:

  • A patient mentions their symptoms or reason for seeking treatment.
  • A patient mentions the diagnosis or treatment provided by your medical practice.
  • A patient mentions treatment outcomes, or the skills and experience of a practitioner at your medical practice.

When you can use a patient comment

In certain circumstances, it’s OK to use a testimonial on your website or other media that your business owns and controls. This includes ‘owned’ media such as your social media, website, newsletters and print publications.

  • A patient comment about a non-regulated health service.
  • A patient comment that’s not related to an aspect of clinical care.
  • A patient comment that’s a testimonial, but it’s not used in advertising.

Total Medical Design are ahead of the game regarding healthcare marketing regulations in Australia. Our team of experienced marketing, digital, design and content professionals have decades of collective experience in healthcare marketing.

Total Medical Design help health and medical businesses like yours to thrive and grow online. If you have any further questions about health advertising or need some advice, give us a call today on 0433 399 294

Further reading

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA) have put together some comprehensive guidelines for health practitioners to ensure that they stay within the regulatory requirements.

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) (2018) Check and Correct: Testimonial Tool

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) (2018) Advertising Resources: Check and Correct