AHPRA Action, a campaign led by Melbourne surgeon Dr Jill Tomlinson, to have the Guidelines for Advertising Regulated Health Services changed, has had some success, but is still looking for the guidelines document to be changed. The part of the guidelines in question is in section 6.2.3, where it states that:
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. ‘Reasonable steps’ include taking action in the practitioner’s power, such as directly removing, or requesting removal, of the testimonials.
AHPRA Action’s petition on change.org had 928 supporters, and on 26th March, it was announced that the Medical Board of Australia would be changing the advertising guidelines to be clearer about the use of testimonials. They stated that the Medical Board of Australia would be working with AHPRA and the other 13 National Boards (Dentistry, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy etc) to progress this change into all the health professions. AHPRA announced the following on their website:
The (Medical) Board has decided that the guidelines need to change to make it clearer that practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) unsolicited testimonials published on a website or in social media over which they do NOT have control.
AHPRA also stated that they would be applying the guidelines in the updated FAQ document until the guidelines could be changed. On Friday 28th March, AHPRA also held a Twitter chat with CEO Martin Fletcher to discuss the policy with Twitter users. It had the hashtag #ahpraqanda. Even if you are not a Twitter user, you can click on this link and it will take you to the tweets in this Twitter conversation. Interestingly, while AHPRA had a Twitter account since July 2010, their first tweet was on 19th March 2014.
On 29th March, Jill Tomlinson was on Twitter ensuring that AHPRA would change the guidelines, not just the FAQ document accompanying the guidelines:
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