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Plastic surgeons in Australia are facing tighter regulations under the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA), with reforms that will take effect from 1 July 2023. This comes after reviews of the medical regulation process and reports of poor patient care, hygiene breaches and inappropriate advertising.

If you are a plastic surgeon or aesthetic practice in Australia, you may be faced with new guidelines and restrictions that could significantly impact your entire digital marketing strategy.

What Are The Proposed Changes?

1. Updated guidelines for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures

As per the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and AHPRA, the reforms apply to doctors practising in 2 areas:

  • cosmetic surgery (involves cutting beneath the skin - including breast augmentation, facelifts and liposuction), and
  • non-surgical cosmetic procedures (which may pierce the skin but don’t cut beneath it, such as injectables, thread lifts and laser treatments).

Under the strict new laws, anyone seeking cosmetic surgery will require a GP referral from July 1.

To be clear, the Medical Board does not expect GPs to possess detailed knowledge of cosmetic procedures or obtain informed consent for procedures they do not personally provide.

This will also include an assessment of whether the patient has a condition like body dysmorphic disorder before surgery.

If the screening shows that the patient potentially has a significant underlying psychological issue like body dysmorphia, the cosmetic doctor will be required to refer the patient back to their GP or a mental health professional for proper assessment.

What does this mean for my practice?

Under this new requirement, patients seeking cosmetic surgery must obtain a GP referral from their GP. It is important for you to establish relationships with your local GPs or create user-friendly referral forms for patients to take to their GPs. It is possible to schedule consultations with your patients to educate them on the specifics of their referral request prior to obtaining referrals.

Why is this being implemented?

As MBA explains, ‘the new measure adds a layer of protection for patients, who will in future be able to discuss their motivation for cosmetic surgery with their GP who has the best knowledge of their medical history and can share this with the doctor being referred to.’

2. New advertising guidelines specific to cosmetic surgery

Besides referrals, other recently-announced updates include additional advertising guidelines to existing online and social media advertising.

Advertising must not:

  • be false, misleading or deceptive
  • offer discounts without terms and conditions
  • use testimonials
  • create unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or
  • encourage indiscriminate use

Additionally, from 1 July 2023:

  • medical practitioners must include clear information about their registration type and their registration number
  • clear information about risks and recovery must be easily found
  • videos and images must be used responsibly and not for entertainment
  • videos and images must not be sexualised or include gratuitous nudity
  • the use of negative body language is banned
  • cosmetic surgery advertising must be identified as adult content

What does this mean for my practice?

Under this new requirement, you should review your online and social media advertising to ensure that you are adhering to the new guidelines. For example, make sure your content is labelled as ‘adult content’ on your social media platforms, banner ads and other advertisement listed on other websites. It is important to stay compliant and address any issues during this time.

Why is this being implemented?

MBA shared, “AHPRA has been proactively auditing cosmetic surgery advertising since September 2022 and found high rates of non-compliance”. The new guidelines are here to improve patient safety and protect the public from potential risks or harm.

3. New registration standard for cosmetic surgery endorsement

Health ministers have approved a new registration standard for cosmetic surgery, which will allow doctors who have done an Australian Medical Council-approved cosmetic surgery qualification to show an “endorsement” on their registration.

What does this mean for my practice?

It should be expected that the doctor at your practice must meet cosmetic surgery standards held by MBA and the Australian Medical Council (AMC).

MBA further shares that, ‘The cosmetic surgery accreditation standards are expected to be published shortly and will determine which qualifications will be recognised for endorsement. Cosmetic surgery training providers will apply for accreditation of their training program. If their program meets the accreditation standards, their graduates will be eligible for endorsement.’

Why is this being implemented?

This will allow the patients to understand who is trained and qualified, so they are able to make an informed decision.

As Dr Tonkin said, ‘Creating an endorsement is the strongest regulatory tool in our kit. We’re introducing it to make patients safer. An endorsement will tell patients who is trained and qualified. Without it, patients will be no better informed than they are now and the opportunity to clean up the cosmetic industry will be lost.’

Want to Know More About Adapting to These Changes?

The new regulatory changes are just the beginning. We can expect more changes in the next few months. It is important to keep up with the changes and make sure you remain compliant with the regulations.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the new changes, we can provide guidance and help. Give us a call at +61 2 9191 7388 or schedule a call with me here.

Hi, I'm Huyen

Our work (and this site) is devoted to sharing ideas, tools and resources that will help you automate, grow and scale your practice.

huyen

Learn More

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