Grow Your Practice

There are serious penalties for breaching national laws regarding advertising of health services, so you need to know exactly what your practice can and can’t do to advertise its services. If your practice has adopted social media marketing, you also need to adhere to specific guidelines and have a social media policy in place.

Advertising regulations for medical practices

Medical practices and practitioners must comply with the national law in advertising regardless of whether they are advertising in print, via a website, radio, television or via a social media account. Advertising must not:

  • make misleading claims
  • offer an inducement such as a gift or discount (unless the relevant terms and conditions are also included).
  • use testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business.
  • create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment.
  • encourage the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of a regulated health service – that is, “a service provided by, or usually provided by, a health practitioner”.

The medical board can impose penalties for breaching the national law’s advertising requirements, including restrictions on an individual’s registration and their ability to practise. Medical practitioners may also be liable for a financial penalty - $5000 for an individual or $10,000 for a corporation. The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) also have responsibilities for the laws regarding advertising of health services.

Responsibilities in the practice

You should be aware that medical practitioners who delegate or outsource the responsibility for developing website or social media content remain responsible for ensuring that the content is accurate and complies with national law.

You should also ensure that the practitioners review the content of any advertising of their services and take reasonable steps to prevent non-compliance. For instance, testimonials that are posted on practitioner websites or social media accounts (e.g. a practice Facebook page) must be removed.


The medical board has specific guidelines on the use of graphic or visual representations in health service advertising, which includes photographs (of patients, clients or models), diagrams, cartoons and other images.

Photographs that are used to advertise treatments:

“… must only depict a real patient or client who has actually undergone the advertised treatment by the advertised doctor or practice, and who has provided written consent for publication of the photograph in the circumstances in which the photograph is used”.Medical Board Guidelines for Advertising of Regulated Health Services (Paragraph 6.1).

Before and after photographs have restrictions placed on them to ensure that, “the public can trust the truthfulness of the images”. This means that the images must be taken under consistent conditions, that it must be stated if the photographs have been altered and that it must be confirmed that no other change has occurred (for example, if results have been enhanced by diet and exercise).

Stock photographs and images of models are not prohibited, providing that the requirements of s.133 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and the medical board guidelines are met, but the medical board states that, “practitioners should exercise caution due to the potential to mislead customers” (Paragraph 6.1).

Warning statements

Where surgical or invasive procedures are advertised directly to the public, a warning with text along the following lines is required:

“Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner” (Paragraph 6.2).

Surgical and invasive procedures are defined in the guidelines and include procedures that have significant risk, require admission to a day procedure centre or hospital or are elective procedures requiring more than local anaesthetic or sedation.

If you are unsure about the applicability of the guidelines in your circumstances, you can contact AHPRA for advice.

Advertising of price information

This can be a difficult area, particularly for proceduralists. Any information that is provided must be clear and not misleading. Providing price information about the cost of consultations and the relevant Medicare rebates must be straightforward. On the other hand, providing accurate pricing via a website for procedures and inpatient services may be complex due to the variables involved for each individual patient.

Time-limited and special offers are not permitted. Providing compensation to a journalist or to a print, television or radio outlet for publicity is also prohibited, unless the fact of compensation is clearly expressed. The use of gifts and discounts in advertising is also inappropriate

Social media marketing

Social media marketing requires significant consideration about whether the return on investment for your practice will make it effective. You should also consider your practice’s capacity and skill to develop content, adopt appropriate tone and use social media marketing in a way that adheres to the guidelines.

As the practice manager, you need to be aware that practitioners are responsible for comments that are posted on their social networking account once alerted to the comment. Content should therefore be reviewed regularly and policies put in place regarding:

  • who determines what is appropriate content.
  • who is responsible for reviewing content, and how often.
  • responding to complaints.
  • responding to social media enquiries and messages.

To engage in social media marketing requires a time investment – to create the content and post it online. As a practice, you may also elect to invest financially, by spending money on Google and Facebook to promote your website or Facebook content. By spending advertising money on Google, you can promote your listing to be at the top or right hand side of the page. By spending advertising money on Facebook, you can promote your post so that it is seen by more people.

It is possible to purchase ‘likes’ on Facebook and followers on Twitter; these techniques are not recommended.

If you intend to utilise social media marketing, you must ensure that you have a social media policy in place and that staff and patients are aware of the policy and its relevant contents.

More information on social media in the Practice Website and Search Engine Optimization page.

Next page

Risk Management Overview
  • Risk Management Overview
  • What is risk management ?
  • Why do I need to consider risk management in the practice?
  • What are the common risks in private practice?
  • Common reasons for patient complaints
  • Who is responsible?
  • Who are the stakeholders in the risk management process?
  • How to minimise risk
  • The risk management process
  • Risk management process: steps to consider

This publication is proudly brought to you by Avant Mutual Group. The content was authored by Brett McPherson, reviewed by Colleen Sullivan and Avant Mutual Group.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2014.

IMPORTANT: Professional indemnity insurance products and Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Policy are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. The information provided here is general advice only. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us. For full details including the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply, please read and consider the policy wording and PDS, which is available at or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability, public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance, and workers compensation and you should contact your insurance broker for more information. Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Any advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the product is appropriate for you before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us.