What’s going on with the National Law?
On 11 May 2022, the Minister for Health and Ambulance services introduced the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 to parliament. If passed, this law could change the way we conduct medical marketing.
Specifically, part 16 of the bill proposes an amendment to section 113 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. It will completely remove subsection (1)(c), which currently prohibits advertising regulated health services in ways that “uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business”.
Until now, patient testimonials have been illegal in healthcare advertising and marketing. AHPRA is yet to acknowledge or comment on the bill through their website, though this ground-breaking amendment may soon make advertising medical businesses far simpler.
Why the change?
An explanatory note, added on May 11, clarifies that the change is in response to patient expectations in advertising.
“The prohibition is out of step with consumer expectations and current marketing and advertising practices. Testimonials and reviews are common online, and new forms of advertising, particularly on social media, have blurred the lines between information and advertising. Consumers increasingly expect to have access to reviews and testimonials when purchasing health services and expect to be able to share their views about health services and practitioners.”Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 — Explanatory Note
It further clarifies that testimonials will be treated the same as any other form of advertising. False, misleading, and deceptive testimonials will still be prohibited, as will testimonials that set unrealistic expectations of treatment.
It also specifies another reason for the change: clinical testimonials can be difficult to distinguish from non-clinical ones.
Further, practitioners and regulators can find it difficult to distinguish testimonials about clinical care from testimonials about non-clinical care. The proliferation of online testimonials about health practitioners has negated previous policy rationales for regulating testimonials about health services differently from other forms of advertising.Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 — Explanatory Note
The distinction has been confusing for a while – we even built a digital tool to help clarify the distinction, but many practices are still having difficulty telling them apart. This proposed amendment acknowledges that official definitions to distinguish them are not sufficient.
It’s also an acknowledgement of how much the internet has changed since the testimonial ban was introduced in 2010. Regulatory bodies have realised that testimonials are key to helping patients make informed decisions about their healthcare options.
What does this mean for my marketing?
For now, nothing has changed. The bill is still just a bill; passing it through parliament may take several months. However, it does mean that testimonials may soon be legal to use in your practice marketing and advertising.
As medical marketers, this is big news for us as well as for medical practitioners. We’ll be following the legislative changes closely – if you would like to be notified about updates, you can subscribe to our mailing list.
In the meantime, the National Law’s current edition still stands. Testimonials are still prohibited, though there are plenty of other ways to advertise. If your medical business is ready to compliantly advertise under the current regulations, get in touch with Vividus today. And if you have patient testimonials that you can’t use yet, hang on to them! They may soon become useful. Until the bill is passed, you can still use our patient review checker tool to distinguish compliant reviews from testimonials.