Queries are regularly received on the type of information that may be included on HPCSA registerant’s websites.
The following ethical rules exist and any advertisement (websites as well) should be measured against these rules for possible unprofessional conduct:
“(1) A practitioner shall be allowed to advertise his or her services or permit, sanction or acquiesce to such advertisement: Provided that the advertisement is not unprofessional, untruthful, deceptive or misleading or causes consumers unwarranted anxiety that they may be suffering from any health condition.
(2) A practitioner shall not canvass or tout or allow canvassing or touting to be done for patients on his or her behalf”.
A few pointers in this regard:
- Do not draw attention to personal qualities, superior knowledge, quality of service, professional guarantees or best practice as this could be construed as canvassing patients.
- Do not draw attention to one’s offers, guarantees or material benefits, not falling within the categories of professional services or items.
- Graphics and anatomical structures or a photograph of a medical practitioner on websites are permissible provided that it is not indecent, deceptive, misleading or bring the profession into disrepute.
- Avoid using phrases like “conditions apply” – such conditions must be specifically indicated.
- Do not advertise the practice’s tariffs to the public at large. You may put up a notice in the practice to inform your own patients of the tariffs.
The following information may appear on adverts, letterheads, account forms and electronic stationery (websites included):
- practitioner’s name;
- registered category;
- speciality or subspeciality or field of professional practice (if any);
- registered qualifications or other academic qualifications or honorary degrees in abbreviated form;
- registration number;
- addresses (including email address);
- telephone and fax numbers;
- practice or consultation hours;
- practice code number;
- and dispensing licence number (if any).