Do you provide health services?
Having trouble figuring out what you can and cannot do to promote your health business?
There are a number of traditional and highly regulated professions with rules for practice over and above the rules that apply to normal retail business. Health services are heavily regulated, primarily for the protection of the public.
If you a registered practitioner in Australia who is a Chiropractor, Dentist, GP, Nurse, Midwife, Optometrist, Osteopath, Pharmacist, Physiotherapist, Podiatrist or Psychologist, then you now have to comply with a national law that specifically says
section 133 Advertising
(1) A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health servcie, in a way that …
(c) uses testimonials or purposted testimonials about the service of business …
(2) A person does not commit an offence against subsection (1) merely because the person, as part of the person’s business, prints or publishes an advertisement for another person.
So, where is the wriggle room?
Well, the national system is new, so there aren't a lot of decisions to refer to yet, but there are some things that fall outside of what the national scheme can govern.
Firstly – the national regulator does not control what other people say about you. So if, for example, you had an online listing in "True Local" or another directory, then people might be inclined to leave feedback about you. That is how I found my physiotherapist – someone recommended their service, and they were close to me. The physio didn't even know that the feedback was there!
Be aware – directories are independant of you and not owned or controlled by you, which is why they do not fall within the regulation. Don't try and do the same thing with your own website!
Secondly – the law prohibits testimonials about the health service provided, or the business providing health services. So, if someone wants to say that you are a great person, and a pleasure to deal with, without reference to either the health service or business, then this might be okay. The trouble with using comments about your personality rather than service is that it may be hard to explain why you would include those comments in your marketing material if not to promote your services!
If you have any concerns about how to advertise your regulated health business then always check first with your professional organisation and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
If you are not in one of the professions governed by the national legislation, then you may have more leeway. Again, you need to check with any regulators and with your professional organisations to make sure.
It is unfortunate the testimonials are not permitted, but it is in the interests of public safety.