If you are a registered health practitioner and wish to advertise your services, you must make sure that you comply with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. This law is in force in each Australian state and territory (National Law). This article explains some of the advertising requirements for the advertising of regulated health services.  

Regulation of Advertising Health Services

A regulated health service is a service that is usually provided by a health practitioner. If you are a registered health practitioner and wish to advertise your services, or you are otherwise looking to promote regulated health services, you must make sure that any advertisement or promotion complies with the National Law. 

Advertising regulated health services must also comply with the Australian Consumer Law. If the advertisement also directly or indirectly refers to a therapeutic good, you just comply with relevant therapeutic goods laws. Registered health professionals must also comply with their relevant National Board’s code of conduct, which sets out the professional standards, including in relation to advertising.

General Requirements

The National Law places limits on the advertising of regulated health services. In general, an advertisement for regulated health services must not contain false and misleading information, create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment or encourage the unnecessary use of a regulated health service. 

For example, false or misleading information includes advertising health benefits of your service where there is no proof that such benefits can be obtained. It could also include purporting to be a ‘specialist’ in an area that you do not hold speciality registration for.

Your advertisement should include factual information that helps consumers make an informed decision about seeking your services.

For example, your advertisement could include your:

  • office details;
  • hours;
  • fees (if any price information is exact); and
  • your qualifications and experience.

Gifts, Discounts and Inducements 

If you offer a gift, prize or discount to consumers, you must clearly state the terms and conditions of such an offer.

For example, if you offer a free consultation for new patients, you must clearly set out any conditions on the offer in the advertisement. This might include:

  • what the free consultation includes; and 
  • whether there are any eligibility restrictions.

The National Law prohibits advertising that encourages unnecessary or indiscriminate use of health services. Therefore, you must ensure that by offering a gift, prize or discount to consumers, you are not encouraging consumers to purchase or undergo a regulated health service that they do not require. 

You should also avoid time-limited promotional techniques such as, ‘hurry offer won’t last’ or ‘get in quick’. These can make a consumer feel pressured to make a decision about cost, rather than a health need.

Testimonials

The National Law prohibits use of testimonials when advertising a regulated health service. A testimonial could include any recommendation or statement of support about clinical aspects of a health service.

As a registered health practitioner, you must not use testimonials in any of your advertising. This includes patients posting comments on social media about your services or business.  Accordingly, you should not encourage patients to leave a review or testimonial and remove any testimonials from any website or social media page that is within your control. 

However, you will not be required to remove unsolicited testimonials published on a website or via a social media account over which you have no control.

Scientific Information

If you want to include scientific information in your advertising, you must make sure that it is:

  • accurate;
  • balanced;
  • not misleading; and
  • presented in a way that can be easily understood by your target audience. 

You should ensure that the relevant research or study is from a verifiable source with a good reputation. You must identify the researchers or sponsors of the scientific study in your advertisement.

Health Services and Related Therapeutic Goods

If your advertisement also refers to a therapeutic good used in the delivery of the service, your advertisement will also need to comply with the requirements for advertising therapeutic goods.

Some services, such as imaging or vaccination services, inherently involve therapeutic goods. As such, advertising for these services will need to comply with relevant therapeutic goods advertising laws.

Key Takeaways

Advertising of regulated health services has strict regulations. Non-compliance with advertising requirements could result in:

  • disciplinary action;
  • penalties; or 
  • various other consequences.

Before advertising your regulated health services, consult a commercial health lawyer to ensure your advertising is compliant with relevant law. To speak with a commercial health lawyer about advertising your therapeutic goods or making therapeutic claims, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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