The profession has struggled for many years with how it can appropriately communicate its services while remaining compliant with the advertising rules in place to safeguard the public from unsubstantiated health claims.
In late 2016 all osteopaths received a joint letter from GOsC and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) advising of the publication of new guidance for the marketing of osteopathic services. The iO welcomes the new guidance which is a significant and positive shift for the profession in its ability to describe the services it provides.
Why the guidance was necessary
A lack of guidance about marketing and a series of complaints about osteopaths’ websites has left the profession unclear about how to communicate appropriately about the services osteopaths provide. In late 2015, the iO began talks with the ASA and Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) with the aim of clarifying what is acceptable under CAP’s Code of Advertising Practice.
This guidance is the result of those talks. By following it, osteopaths will now be able to promote the valuable contribution they make, particularly in the care of pregnant women and children, without fear of inadvertently falling foul of the CAP Code.
Input from across the profession
The iO took a collaborative approach to work with the ASA and CAP teams and established a process in which the iO team, working with colleagues from NCOR, the colleges and the Osteopathic Alliance, on behalf of the profession, could address the issues that osteopaths faced and inform the ASA about the breadth of osteopathic practice.
We were pleased that the ASA recognised the importance of helping osteopaths to communicate responsibly about their work and delighted that these discussions resulted in this useful document.
What does the new guidance cover?
There are several areas where the new guidance provides useful clarification that supports the iO’s position that osteopaths must be allowed to inform the public and promote their services in a balanced, objective and responsible manner.
The guidance outlines key communication principles from which it usefully provides examples of the types of statements that can be made in your advertising and those which the ASA would consider problematic and ‘likely’ to mislead.
Naturally the guidance cannot cover every example or statement that osteopaths may wish to use, nor would we want to have such a prescriptive approach taken to describing osteopathic practice.
Conditions ‘approved’ for advertising
The list of conditions which are ‘approved’ for advertising in marketing materials remains as before. The new guidance states that osteopaths can refer to these conditions in their advertising in relation to all patient populations.
The guidance reiterates that, as with all advertisers, osteopaths must not make claims to treat conditions where existing evidence does not satisfy the ASA/CAP’s standards for substantiation of health claims.
The iO’s advice to all osteopaths is ensure that your marketing materials follow the guidance provided by the ASA and your practice is guided by your osteopathic knowledge and best available evidence – this will go a long way to keep you safe.
For information on the guidance click here.
December ’16 – update from Maurice Cheng, CEO of the iO, click here.
March ’16 – update from Maurice Cheng, CEO of the iO, click here.
April ’16 – Open letter to the iO – Click here for the iO’s response to an open letter received from members
How we can help you…
- For information and advice on the application of the new guidance visit – ASA guide to marketing.*
- If you run, or are a member of, a local osteopathic group or society the iO are happy to visit your group to discuss in more detail the updated guidance and how you can apply these to your marketing activities. Please call the iO office on 01582 488 455.
- If you require further advice on the application of the guidance in your marketing material email email@example.com
…and how you can help us
- Get your clinic using the NCOR PROMs tool for gathering evidence of patient reported outcomes.
– This data is vital to help osteopathy demonstrate its benefits to patients and provides you with data that you can use for your own practice.
- If you are the subject of an ASA related complaint, please get in touch and share your case materials with us – send this to firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you have used the CAP copy advice service, please share this with us at email@example.com so that we can ensure that the advice that osteopaths receive is appropriate.
Got a question about the ASA guidance and marketing?
For answers to some of the most common questions and comments we receive visit our FAQ’s page
*The iO will provide advice based on its interpretation of the guidance. Any advice given does not constitute a guarantee that should a complaint be made, that this position will be upheld by an ASA ruling. For statements for which the iO feels the current guidance lacks clarity, it may choose to refer to the CAP copy advice team for further advice.