A couple of months ago, the regulatory body for midwives (and health professionals) in Australia, AHPRA, brought out guidance about the use of social media and testimonials which caused a kerfuffle to say the least. Now that guidance has been clarified and the dust has settled, I have gone back to finalizing the Australian College of Midwives' guidelines for social media so that we can get on and publish them. But having re-read the latest AHPRA advertising and social media guidelines I find myself still in a bit of a dither about exactly what the ACM should be advising its members.
I understand that a testimonial is a "statement that says something positive about, or recommends a midwife’s qualification, care/service/business, character or conduct". This may be solicited or unsolicited. What I cannot get my head around is what AHPRA sees as the difference between a testimonial and a favorable comment posted on a midwife's social media site. I am also struggling to see how birth stories that midwives publish fit into the picture - are they commentary, or could they be perceived as testimonials?
Here is the draft of what I have written so far.
1 Advertising and testimonials
The National Law states that midwives must not use testimonials to advertise their services. A testimonial is a statement that says something positive about, or recommends a midwife’s qualification, care/service/business, character or conduct. Midwives are not allowed to use testimonials to advertise their services because the testimonial may unduly influence the public,
mis-represent the service, business or midwife, or prevent consumers from making informed choices about their care. In the ‘Guidelines for Advertising Regulated Health Services’ (2014), AHPRA states that midwives “cannot use or quote testimonials on a site or in social media that is advertising a regulated health service, including patients posting comments about a practitioner on the practitioner’s business website.”
Best practice points:
- If social media is used to advertise midwifery practice/business, the midwife should always publish full name and contact details, as well as professional qualifications.
- Do not publish solicited or unsolicited endorsements, testimonials or materials that could be perceived as recommendations in any online space.
- If a woman would like to provide a favourable comment or review of a midwifery service, request that she do this in her own online space.
- Do not publish a woman’s birth story if it describes or comments on quality of the midwifery care provided.
- For further direction visit ‘Health of the Net (HON) Code of Conduct’ (http://www.hon.ch/home1.html); an internationally recognised standard for health professionals on how to provide online health information to women and families.
Best practice example
A new mother wrote a long comment on her midwife’s blog thanking her for the excellent care she received from the midwife. The midwife thanked the mother very much for her lovely compliment, but explained that she had to remove the comment because it could be perceived as an testimonial. Before the midwife deleted the comment, she took a screen shot and saved it as evidence of her practice for the next time she had her Midwifery Practice Review.
What do you think? Too conservative, or about right? What would you change and why?
Image: 'Free Social Media Networking Icons - 154 Orange Grunge Stickers'