This post talks about social media reviews from a health regulatory point of view and the public's perspective on advertising by health professionals.

Postings on social media are a form of advertising. Reviews posted by patients about a naturopathic doctor (ND) on social media are considered to be testimonials. The College's Standard of Practice for Advertising and the Advertising Guideline say that a naturopath's advertising is not allowed to include testimonials about their practice or any reference to another website or social media platform that has testimonials or reviews.

So, what's an ND to do about reviews? For starters, NDs should not encourage patients to leave reviews or comments on the ND's social media, website or any other platform where the public can view it.

In the case of Facebook, the business page owner can turn off the Facebook "review" function in a few easy steps. When it comes to Google reviews where the function cannot be turned off by the business owner, naturopaths are expected to be able to demonstrate to the College that they made a reasonable attempt to contact Google with a request to delete the reviews because they are contrary to the requirements in Ontario. We understand that this can't be done every time a review is posted; however, the best approach is to remind patients to not post on platforms such as Google.

Members of the Citizens Advisory Group (CAG), made up of public representatives, provided feedback to several Ontario health regulatory Colleges about health professionals advertising. In general, they feel that health care advertising needs to be held to a higher standard. Because health care is seen to be linked to a person's overall well-being, it should not be treated like a commodity or consumer product. The public wants to know that advertising by regulated health professionals is trustworthy, verifiable, professional, realistic, proven and in good taste. Testimonials and reviews are not verifiable or proven and may not be realistic.

While the public often relies on reviews to choose a restaurant or hotel, when it comes to finding the right health care provider the CAG members said they are looking for information about pricing, services, products and treatments.

For additional guidance, contact our Manager of Professional Practice, Dr. Mary-Ellen McKenna ND (Inactive) at 416-583-6020 or maryellen.mckenna@collegeofnaturopaths.on.ca.