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Advertising your Medical Services – A Warning to Doctors

  • Posted: September 23, 2017

Every business needs a strategic and targeted marketing and advertising plan to get their brand noticed by customers. The medical and wider healthcare industries are no different, but they come up against unique challenges when implementing their advertising as they have to comply with additional strict laws and guidelines in Australia.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA) states “Supporting the public to make informed healthcare choices with the right information at the right time is extremely important and advertising can heavily influence a patient’s decision-making around their healthcare needs.”

So, it’s essential for your business, as well as the health of your patients that your advertising is compliant.

What are the basic rules for medical advertising in Australia?

“Section 133 of the National Law relates to advertising. It states that: (1) A person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that—

(a) is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be misleading or deceptive; or

(b) offers a gift, discount or other inducement to attract a person to use the service or the business, unless the advertisement also states the terms and conditions of the offer; or

(c) uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business; or

(d) creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment; or

(e) directly or indirectly encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of regulated health services.”


Some practitioners shy away from promoting their services, for fear of retribution if they get it wrong. While caution is extremely important, the rules exist to not only protect the public, but to also to help guide practitioners.

Who can check my medical advertising for compliance?

Even when you engage someone else to create your advertising content, the onus is still on you as the Doctor/Health Professional/Business Owner to ensure this content is compliant. So, while every effort will be made by a competent and experienced health and medical writer or marketer, final signoff before publication really has to come from you. It is your business and reputation on the line.

What are the penalties?

AHPRA states: “registered health practitioner, or a business providing a regulated health service, whose advertising breaches the National Law, may be liable for a $5,000 penalty (for an individual) or $10,000 (for a body corporate).”

Here, we’re reminded of the 2015 case of Dr Blog when he engaged the services of a Marketing Agency to revamp his website and increase his brand’s reach across Social Media. Not being familiar with the National Law or AHPRA Guidelines, the agency set about implementing their branding strategy and erroneously included testimonials on Dr Blog’s Social Media Platforms. As it was Dr Blog’s ultimate responsibility to ensure his advertising content was lawful, it was his business that took the fall for this breach, not the Marketing Agency.

Although you can’t control what patients say on social media channels of their own,
you must not share or promote testimonials on your own pages.

How you promote your business or project is vital to its success. Our Communications and Marketing Unit works with you to promote your project to relevant stakeholders. We develop effective Communications strategies that include the creation of marketing collateral for cross promotional use in digital and traditional media.

Contact us today to see how we can help you reach your audience effectively and compliantly.