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Whitecoat – a joint Board/PNZ statement

With online medical practitioner rating site, Whitecoat recently launching in New Zealand, the Physiotherapy Board has worked with Physiotherapy New Zealand to provide practitioners with the guidance on what to be aware of regarding the online directory.

Whitecoat is an online directory of contact details and ratings information for healthcare providers, including physiotherapists. Information on the Whitecoat website identifies the directory as originally formed in 2013 by health insurers nib and joined in 2017 by Bupa and HBF. The public can leave reviews on healthcare providers which, according to the Whitecoat Frequently Asked Questions, “Allow customers to provide more personalised feedback regarding their customer service experience. This may help other consumers using Whitecoat to make more informed decisions when choosing a healthcare provider.”

Healthcare providers can be listed on the Whitecoat directory without their permission. To edit their profile, providers must go through a process of ‘claiming’ their profile, for which the website Frequently Asked Questions says: “there may be a cost”.

Whitecoat reviews create potential issues with patient testimonials. The Advertising Standard of the Physiotherapy Board states “Testimonials can create an unrealistic expectation of outcomes for individual patients and must not be used or quoted in your advertising or on any websites, social media forums or any other platforms you control that advertise your services” (page 40). Because a ‘testimonial’ is broadly defined in the standard as “a recommendation or positive statement made by another person, for example, about a physiotherapist’s care, skill, expertise or treatment”, this prohibition applies to online reviews that physiotherapists have control of.

Whitecoat has advised the Physiotherapy Board that providers have the option to hide review comments through the Whitecoat provider portal. This option is available only to practitioners who have claimed their profile. Because physiotherapists who claim their profile on the Whitecoat website are effectively able to control the display of testimonials, the Advertising Standard then requires those physiotherapists to remove reviews published about them.”

All physiotherapists, whether they are members of PNZ or not, are encouraged to be aware of the Board’s Standards and information on the Whitecoat website, including Frequently Asked Questions and Privacy Policy, when considering creating an account with the online directory.

The Board’s Physiotherapy Standards Framework is available here.