Although most people decide to consult with a certain health practitioner because of a positive story from a friend, colleague, or family member, there are specific laws in Australia that prohibit registered health professionals from publishing such feedback from patients.
Section 133 of the National Law says: A person must not advertise a regulated health service or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that — (c) uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business;
The main reason for this is to avoid circumstances where someone may develop an unrealistic expectation about the treatment results they might receive: just because one person got a particular result, doesn’t mean everyone can expect the same result.
However, the law doesn’t stop people talking or writing about how a practitioner may or may not have helped them.
One such place where this happens is NIB’s website, Whitecoat. This website makes the following statement about the legality of their content (though this hasn’t been tested in court):
“Registration on Whitecoat does not breach the law regarding testimonials, and Whitecoat has frequently consulted with a range of industry bodies and stakeholders, including the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to seek their guidance around customer reviews. We are confident that because Whitecoat operates as a forum for patients to exchange their views about their overall service experience, health practitioners will not be considered to be engaging in advertising contrary to the law. Whitecoat seeks feedback from customers in an objective, contemporaneous manner, and as the individual provider does not seek the review this is not a breach of the law. The objective questions are based on customer experience and are not clinical in nature, and all comments are moderated to ensure compliance with all laws, including clinical feedback. All Whitecoat reviews are also moderated to ensure that they remain anonymous and ethical.”