First off, just to cover ourselves, nothing is this post should be construed as professional advice. You should read the APHRA guidelines and make your own judgement on how to apply them in marketing your practice.
Much of the new guidelines are thankfully clearer than the previous ones. The guidelines apply to anyone who advertises a regulated profession. So even if you aren’t registered yourself, you can be liable if your advertising of a regulated profession breaches the law. Notably, breaching the guidelines is a criminal offence, with fines of up to $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for a corporation.
Much of the guidelines are similar to the previous ones, but you should read them to make yourself familiar with the changes.
Thankfully the guidelines clarify the situation regarding online reviews of your services, though the suggestions as to how to handle any reviews that breach the rules are, in my opinion, unreasonable.
The rules are that you can have reviews about your practice, as long as they are not about clinical matters. For example, a review that said “Dr Bloggs is a nice person and he always runs on time” is okay. However a review that says “Dr Bloggs always fixes my pain quickly” is a comment about clinical matters and is in breach of the rules.
This is good in some respects because it suggests you can use reviews about the non clinical aspects of your practice in your advertising.
The problem is that if you become aware of a review about you that discusses clinical aspects of your business, you are required to take steps to have it removed even if you do not control the site. So if you have reviews on 3rd party sites like Google, Truelocal etc. you need to contact the site and ask to have them removed. In summary, this is a big pain in the butt!
If you control the site, like your Facebook page or website, you must remove any clinical based comments immediately.
Why use reviews?
Using reviews for your business has several positive aspects. People searching online like to see reviews of businesses in order to help them in choosing which one to use. It is a form of social proof, in that people can see that other people have used your services and been happy with that decision.
Reviews also assist your website in ranking well in the search engine results. Google uses this form of social proof as validation that a) your business is genuine, and b) that people find it valuable (or not). Therefore soliciting reviews within the guidelines could be very beneficial.
So, how do I manage these changes?
- Firstly, download a copy of the new guidelines from the AHPRA website and read them so you are ready for them before they come into effect. Click here to do this.
- Do a check of your current website and social media pages. Remove any offending reviews.
- If you become aware of a review that is not on your site that violates the guidelines, seek to have it removed.
- Google. Google’s online facility for querying reviews contains no provision for healthcare professionals under the AHPRA rules. Click here to download a template letter that you can send to Google to ask for a review to be removed. Send it by registered post so you have proof that you took steps to have the review removed should AHPRA question you.
- Truelocal. Issues with Truelocal reviews need to be disputed by a link under the review. Details are here Again make a note of when you lodged the request should AHPRA question you.
- NIB’s Whitecoat site. NIB should have sent you login details for their Whitecoat site. Log into the site and uncheck the option to allow reviews.
- If you do solicit reviews from your patients, be sure to clarify that they must only comment on non-clinical matters.
Monitor your reputation online.
How to do this? You have 2 options.
- The first option is free. Sign up for Google Alerts for your name and your practice name at http://www.google.com.au/alerts. Google will then email you when they pick up new content about the words you enter.
- The second option is a paid social monitoring service. We can offer a paid service to actively monitor your reputation online and to help you in soliciting positive reviews safely online. Click here to request a review of your social media and digital marketing needs.
If you take these steps you will reduce your chances of being caught out in the future, and you can use these new guidelines to help you build your practice now.