AHPRA has published several revised guidelines that are to become effective from 17 March.
For registered health practitioners
Guidelines for advertising regulated health services
... "A practitioner must take reasonable steps to have any testimonials associated with their health service or business removed when they become aware of them, even if they appear on a website that is not directly associated and/or under the direct control or administration of that health practitioner and/or their business or service. This includes unsolicited testimonials. (emphasis added)"
An article Medical board’s online backflip
7th Mar 2014
published in Medical Observer adds another perspective to this interesting dilemma faced by AHPRA: that an aspect of the revised guidelines are not acceptable or workable.
... But [Medical Board of Australia] MBA chair, Dr Joanna Flynn, has now said the policy was only ever intended to apply to proactive advertising or promotion of a regulated health service. “There is a clear difference between advertising, which requires an intent to promote the health services, and unsolicited online comment over which practitioners do not usually have control,” she said.
... However, the MBA now recognises that practitioners are unable to control what is written about them in a public forum.This article relates to a statement 'Online comment not always advertising' by the Medical Board at the MBA website.
... the Medical Board "now recognises that practitioners are unable to control what is written about them in a public forum." - good!
Can you imagine a health practitioner trying to follow public forums, then trying to get them to take down anything that mentioned them in connection with clinical issues?
The guideline is branded by AHPRA, and adapted for each of the professional Boards. I expect the NMBA will follow the MBA.
How did the regulatory authority not see this? The guideline is clear:
"... even if they appear on a website that is not directly associated and/or under the direct control or administration of that health practitioner and/or their business or service. This includes unsolicited testimonials."The revised Guidelines for advertising regulated health services need to be revised to remove these unworkable, misguided statements.
The other issue for midwives is the use of birth stories, which the guideline refers to as testimonials ('patient stories'), which are prohibited under the Act. I (Joy Johnston) have written to the NMBA about this - we must argue strongly that birth stories that are freely written by the woman are not for the purpose of advertising, and should not be classed as testimonials.
Midwives, please don't take birth stories off your websites; don't delete the name of the midwife; don't ask women to be silent about their experience of birth. We need to stand firm on this one.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, Joy Johnston.
Your comments are welcome.