AHPRA Ins and Outs: What You Need to Know for 2021
Analiese Kovisto

Now that we’re less than a month away from the start of 2021, it’s a great time to review your advertising strategies and make sure that you’re up-to-date with AHPRA regulations.

Here’s a quick review on what you should keep in mind regarding AHPRA and some quick tips for keeping your website clear of any complaints from AHPRA.

AHPRA’s Goals

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (AHPRA’s) primary purpose is to protect the general public through regulations put in place for Australia’s registered health practitioners. A lot of AHPRA’s focus is on advertising, which includes social media posts and your website.

Here are some things to keep in mind that AHPRA looks for when you’re creating and posting advertising content:

  • Don’t Promise Anything. Consider using words like “may” or “can” as opposed to “will” or “do” in your content when discussing the benefits of dental procedures since you can’t guarantee the outcome of treatment.
  • Be Thorough When Explaining Your Work. Don’t use any language that is misleading or deceptive.
  • Only Talk About Teeth. Don’t discuss the psychology behind dentistry, such as how a cosmetic treatment might give you confidence.
  • Understand How to Use Testimonials. You can’t use testimonials regarding anything clinical.

Dentists and Specialties

You can’t claim to specialise in any particular area of dentistry until you’ve completed the appropriate training. Here are the dental specialties that the Dental Board of Australia has approved:

  • Dento-Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Endodontics
  • Forensic Odontology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral Surgery
  • Orthodontics
  • Paediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Public Health Dentistry
  • Special Needs Dentistry

For example, even though your dental practice offers invisible braces with Invisalign doesn’t mean that you can claim orthodontic treatment as a specialty. You can, however, give an overview of how Invisalign works and how it differs from traditional braces so your patients can understand the treatment procedure.

Successful Copywriting for Your Website and Social Media

It’s a tricky balance keeping your advertising content engaging and reader-friendly for Google rankings while adhering to AHPRA’s guidelines. Here are some strategies to keep in mind.

  • Avoid Copywriting Trigger Words. Remember, you don’t want to promise your patients anything you can’t guarantee. So avoid words like cure, effective, safe, will, easy, and pain-free.
  • Be Mindful of Your Calls to Action. AHPRA doesn’t want to see any undue pressure applied on your patients with calls to action. Consider using ‘We welcome your call to book an appointment’ rather than ‘Book an appointment today.’
  • Apply Warning Statements. AHPRA requires that you use the appropriate warning statements for dental treatments that are surgical and invasive. It might be a good idea to include a warning statement on the service pages of your website to ensure that you’re following AHPRA guidelines.

Using Before or After Pictures

It is easy for before and after pictures to become misleading; however, they are also one of the best ways to demonstrate the benefits of certain types of dental procedures. Here are some things to keep in mind if you choose to include before and after pictures on your website.

  • You must have written consent to use before and after pictures.
  • Stock photos can’t be used as before and after pictures.
  • Display warning information if your photos show examples of a surgical procedure.
  • Keep your photos cropped similarly and include factual descriptions.
  • Stick to describing your work. Don’t talk about the impact on the patient’s confidence or self-esteem.

Using Patient Testimonials

AHPRA prohibits using testimonials that are clinical in any way for several reasons. Testimonials are considered opinions and can’t be backed up with scientific data. Opinions are also not balanced since we usually share them when we’re particularly upset or happy.

How do you know if a testimonial is clinical? If it discusses the symptom, treatment, the results of a procedure, or staff completing the procedure. These are the testimonials to avoid.

Here are some other facts to keep in mind about testimonials:

  • You can’t change any of it. The testimonial must be used in its entirety, and you can’t even change any misspellings.
  • Do not solicit reviews and respond wisely. Responses may be seen as advertising, so be mindful of how you respond and who you respond to.

Testimonials can be an excellent way to build confidence about your clinic with new patients. If you are going to use testimonials in your website content be sure they are purely non-clinical, such as, ‘This practice is friendly and welcoming,’ or ‘I had a great experience when I visited this dental clinic.’

What to Do if You Receive an AHPRA Complaint

An AHPRA complaint is addressed and sent to the principal dentist. It gives you a timeline in which you should review and make needed changes to your website, social media posts, and other marketing materials. You can also request an extension, which may give you an extra two to four weeks to complete your changes.

During the review of your marketing materials, AHPRA can look at every social media post you’ve ever made for the clinic, so be prepared to review all of your content and make the appropriate changes.

You can be proactive about protecting your clinic before getting a complaint by reviewing your social media for the past two to three years and removing anything that goes against AHPRA guidelines.

You can also use the helpful tools that AHPRA provides prior to posting anything on your website or social media. The ‘Check My Advertising’ tool will help prevent you from breaking guidelines when you post new content.

By being proactive when you post and taking the time to thoughtfully review the material you choose to share on social media and your website, you can often successfully avoid problems with AHPRA.

Analiese Kovisto
Analiese grew up in Los Angeles and is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She made the jump from non-profits to digital marketing several years ago and specializes in medical and legal clients. In her free time, she volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates, and enjoys reading, working on her house, and traveling. Her wanderlust has so far led her to five continents, but Colorado (and her two dogs, Loxie and Challah) always calls her home.

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