The Council has been contacted with concerns from practitioners about the use of discount vouchers and “deal websites” (such as GrabOne, Groupon, TreatMe) to advertise dental services.
Practitioners are concerned that treatment choice, and informed consent, may be compromised in a situation where a patient has purchased a voucher and the dental practice has already received the money when the patient arrives for their appointment.
The Council is grateful to have had this matter brought to its attention and considered the issue at its July meeting.
The Council agreed that oral health practitioners are entitled to offer discounted services in their advertising.
However, as with any legitimate forms of advertising, practitioners choosing to advertise discounted services in this way have a responsibility to ensure their advertising complies with the requirements of our advertising practice standard and the informed consent practice standard, and to maintain professional standards at all times.
Any initial decision by a consumer in response to an advertised service does not substitute for informed consent and does not remove the obligation on a practitioner to obtain informed consent before proceeding to provide the advertised service or other care that might be recommended once the patient meets with the oral health practitioner.
When a practitioner advertises a promotional deal for their services, the reasonable expectation is that the practitioner would adhere to their professional obligations and give careful consideration to the following:
whether the patient responding to the offer has had a chance to discuss the advertised treatment with the practitioner and reflect on it before giving informed consent
whether the patient has been allowed to opt out of treatment at any time
whether the patient will be refunded if they are deemed unsuitable for treatment
whether the patient’s needs are different to those that are indicated by the offer.
All practitioners are reminded of their ethical and professional responsibilities and that all advertising—including online discount advertising—does not substitute for properly obtained informed consent, which requires an ongoing process of communication between practitioner and patient.