Stop calling yourself a ‘specialist’: Medical Board warns doctors


By Michael Woodhead

6 Mar 2023

The Medical Board has issued a reminder to doctors to stop using the term ‘specialist’ when advertising their services online.

An audit of advertising by health practitioners conducted by the Board found that almost one in five were in breach of AHPRA’s advertising rules, and the most common reason related to use of specialist titles.

The Medical Board said medical practitioners could advertise a ‘special interest in’ or ‘substantial experience in’ an area, “but the rules don’t allow doctors to call themselves a specialist or state that they specialise in a specific field or service unless they hold specialist registration in that specialty or field of specialty practice.”

Examples of claims considered false and misleading included doctors claiming to be specialising in specialising in palliative care, pain management, cancer or tumours, unless the practitioner holds the corresponding specialist registration.

Other common misleading claims were doctors advertising themselves as specialising in oncoplastic surgery without specialist registration in plastic surgery, and doctors claiming to specialise in gynaecology or women’s health, without the practitioner holding specialist registration in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Similarly, some doctors falsely claimed to be specialists in specific procedures or areas of practice such as facial rejuvenation, dermal fillers, hair loss treatment.

The Medical Board said that most practitioners corrected their advertising as soon as they were informed of breaches following a previous audit, although a “small group” took a bit of time to make changes.

“We are looking at next steps with the small number of practitioners unwilling to check and correct their advertising. These can include a caution, conditions on registration or prosecution through the courts,” it said.

In its latest newsletter the Medical Board also reminded practitioners that testimonials are not permitted, after the audit found some doctors were using testimonials such as patient stories and experiences, success stories, personal anecdotes or reviews on their online advertising.

“Since 2020, health practitioners have been asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets the advertising requirements of the National Law. Over the past two years AHPRA has conducted random audits of practitioner advertising. AHPRA will be conducting more audits from now on,” it added

Healthcare practitioners are advised to use the self-assessment tool on our advertising hub to ensure their advertising is compliant with the National Law.


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