What you need to know… Advertising of chiropractic services

Practitioners should take care when advertising chiropractic services that may influence vulnerable groups in the community, particularly paediatric chiropractic services.

Advertising found to be noncompliant with the requirements of the National Law, and therefore not in line with the Board’s advertising guidelines, may result in a court prosecution.

Care must be taken with certain words in advertising, as they may increase the risk of misleading or deceiving a member of the public.

  1. The word ‘cure’. Extremely high level evidence is required to support any claim of cure. It is unacceptable to state that chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach can cure any condition. Not all improvement can necessarily be attributed to chiropractic treatment, relapses frequently occur and the response to treatment varies considerably between individuals. However, it may be acceptable to say, ‘I cannot cure a particular condition but I may be able to help reduce the severity of some of the symptoms associated with that condition’.
  2. The words ‘can help/improve’. Where there is substantive or good quality evidence that chiropractic treatment can help certain conditions, it is acceptable to state something like ‘chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach can help/improve these conditions’. In such cases, it may be acceptable to state that chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach may/might help or improve certain conditions. Where there is limited or inconclusive evidence that chiropractic treatment can help certain conditions, it is unacceptable to state that chiropractic treatment can/may help/improve these conditions.
  3. The word ‘safe’. It is unacceptable to state that chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach is safe without also acknowledging that all forms of chiropractic treatment have the potential for adverse reactions. In such cases it may be acceptable to state something like ‘chiropractic treatment is generally considered safe but occasionally it may cause adverse reactions in some people’.
  4. The word ‘effective’. Where there is substantive or good quality evidence that chiropractic treatment can help certain conditions, it is acceptable to state something like ‘chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach has been shown to be effective for the treatment of these conditions’.

Where there is limited or inconclusive evidence that chiropractic treatment has been shown to be effective in the management of certain conditions, it is acceptable to state something like ‘chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach may be effective in the management of certain conditions for some people’. It would not be acceptable in such cases to claim that ‘chiropractic treatment or a particular chiropractic approach has been shown to be effective for the treatment of these conditions’.

SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION IN ADVERTISING

Chiropractors must take care not to mislead or create false impressions when using scientific information in advertising. Practitioners who choose to include scientific information in advertising must ensure that the information is presented in a manner that is accurate, balanced and not misleading and use terminology that is understood readily by the target audience.

The advertising must clearly identify the relevant researchers, sponsors and the academic publication in which the results appear, and be from a reputable (e.g. peer reviewed) and verifiable source.

TESTIMONIALS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

In the context of the National Law, a testimonial includes recommendations or statements about clinical aspects of a regulated health service. The National Law ban on using testimonials means it is not acceptable to use testimonials in your own advertising, such as on your Facebook page, in a print, radio or television advertisement, or on your website.

The National Law does not directly regulate social media. However, testimonials used in advertising a regulated health service through social media may contravene the National Law.

Practitioners advertising through social media should carefully review content regularly to make sure that all material complies with their obligations under the National Law. Therefore, chiropractors should not encourage patients to leave testimonials on the chiropractor’s website that advertises their own regulated health services, and should remove any testimonials that are posted there.

There are many opportunities for consumers or patients to express their views online that are not affected by the National Law restriction on testimonials in advertising. Patients can share views through their personal social media such as Facebook or Twitter accounts, or on information-sharing websites or other online mechanisms that do not involve using testimonials in advertising a regulated health service.

To clarify, practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) unsolicited testimonials published on a website or in social media over which they do not have control.

THE USE OF TITLES

Under the National Law, there is no specialist registration for chiropractors, and the title ‘specialist’ is restricted. It is therefore unlawful for chiropractors to call themselves specialists or imply that they are specialists in their advertising.

All registered chiropractors can use the title ‘chiropractor’ in their advertising. It is also acceptable to list credentials and recognised qualifications in advertising. It is not acceptable to claim specialisation explicitly or by using other words that create the impression that a chiropractor is a specialist in a particular area. This is contrary to the advertising provisions of the National Law. However, a chiropractor could reasonably say they have an ‘interest’, ‘experience’ or ‘predominantly practise’ in an area of clinical practice.

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