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Social media, crowdsourcing, AHPRA, consumer action, advocacy.

Written by Dr Jill Tomlinson on .

I used to wonder why somebody didn't do something about that. And then I realised: I am somebody. After writing open letters to the Medical Board of Australia and to AHPRA regarding the proposed AHPRA Advertising Guidelines, I was contacted by healthcare practitioners and consumers who disagreed with the proposed Guidelines and we have joined our voices in calling on AHPRA to review the Guidelines. This letter that I wrote to AHPRA lists the names of individuals and organisations who opted to sign the original document. This letter has now been converted to a petition.

Sign the Petition to AHPRA

To remove Section 6.2.3 from the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines we need your signature and we need your help! Please ask Colleges, patient advocacy groups, consumer organisations, professional organisations, businesses, friends, colleagues and family to lend their support. I have contacted the organisations listed on this page as well as many healthcare professionals on Twitter - and you can too! The more messages the better.

Please share this action widely through your preferred social media and other channels.

@AHPRA has started tweeting!

On Wednesday 19 March @AHPRA broadcast its first tweet, finally joining the social media conversation online. AHPRA will now be participating in online conversations, and will also be engaging with practitioners and the public regarding social media. I understand from AHPRA's CEO, Martin Fletcher, that AHPRA will be making recommendations to the National Boards in the near future regarding adjustments that may be required to the new Guidelines. This is excellent progress and it is your action that has made this happen. But we can't let up until our request for the removal of Section 6.2.3 is acted upon. Please sign the petition to AHPRA on and lend your voice to the collective chorus. Together we are making a difference!

Medical Observer joins #AHPRAaction as a Media Partnermedical observer logo for website

I am very pleased to announce that the Medical Observer has joined the #AHPRAaction as a media partner and will be promoting the #AHPRAaction petition online, on Twitter and in print.

Legal perspective

For a legal perspective on the implications of the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines you may wish to read this article from TressCox Lawyers. Excerpt: "In our view, the very broad wording in paragraph 6.2.3 of the updated advertising guidelines potentially exposes all health practitioners to a risk of breaching section 133(1)(c) of the National Law. This is because when health practitioners become aware of a testimonial ‘associated with their health service’, they must actively seek to have the content removed from a website over which they have no control. Aside from being notoriously difficult to have content removed, this requirement potentially places an onerous burden on all health practitioners."

AHPRA has confirmed the Guidelines don't mean what they say

AHPRA has issued a set of FAQs regarding the new Guidelines. The AHPRA Guidelines say: “A practitioner must take reasonable steps to have any testimonials associated with their health service or business removed when they become aware of them, even if they appear on a website that is not directly associated and/or under the direct control or administration of that health practitioner and/or their business or service. This includes unsolicited testimonials.

The AHPRA FAQs say: “The guidelines do not require practitioners to try to remove unsolicited testimonials on websites or in social media over which they have no control.” 

A Parliamentary Inquiry found AHPRA had issues with inadequate communication and responsiveness, a lack of transparency and accountability, and inconsistent decision making. However we can and should expect better than this from an organisation that regulates over 600,000 Australian healthcare practitioners. Please add your name to the petition to AHPRA.Healthcare consumers and practitioners are equally affected by AHPRA's actions so every individual and organisation is invited to lend their support to this growing list.





Letter to AHPRA - original

PO Box 3132 Victoria Gardens
Richmond VIC 3121

GPO Box 9958
Melbourne VIC 3001


RE: “Guidelines for advertising regulated health services”

According to Section 6.2.3 of the AHPRA Advertising Guidelines over 600,000 registered health practitioners now need to ask any individual who writes online about their clinical care, or any website that hosts the online comments, to remove the comments.

Your Guidelines state: “A practitioner must take reasonable steps to have any testimonials associated with their health service or business removed when they become aware of them, even if they appear on a website that is not directly associated and/or under the direct control or administration of that health practitioner and/or their business or service. This includes unsolicited testimonials.”

These Guidelines place an unreasonably onerous burden on all health practitioners. They require that health practitioners take steps to censor patients and consumers who provide unsolicited positive feedback or commentary in a public forum. They demonstrate a lack of understanding of the use of social media in Australia in 2014. They restrict consumers rights to express their positive experiences of healthcare.

We call upon AHPRA to remove Section 6.2.3 from these Guidelines immediately.

[your name and/or your organisation's name here]

Website Disclaimer

This website is authored by Dr Jillian Tomlinson, a fully qualified plastic, reconstructive and hand surgeon who practices in Melbourne, Australia. This website aims to inform patients and health professionals about hand surgery, illness prevention and the practice philosophy of Dr Jill Tomlinson. This website's content is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own doctor. The information is not intended to replace the advice of a health professional. This website does not host or receive funding from advertising or from the display of commercial content.