Keeping Online Review Responses HIPAA Compliant

Patient-centric Care Prompts a New Approach to Payments

The impact of online reviews to a business has grown significantly in the last decade and has reshaped how the public chooses where to go and what to spend their money on. Some businesses, Restaurants for example, live and die by their Yelp & Google ratings.

There is nothing better than a Positive review that highlights a great customer experience. And there can be nothing more disastrous than a negative review from an angry customer. To make matters worse, many negative reviews have very little to do with the actual customer experience and are published for reasons outside of the business’ control.

What Does This Mean for My Medical or Healthcare Practice?

  • Fortunately, referrals from existing patients is still the primary factor in the success of a practice. With that said, a negative review can still be extremely damaging to the practices and doctor’s reputations and could affect the influx of new patients. A quick search online will show thousands of negative reviews for practices that range from “The staff was rude” to “My surgery was completely botched. I am now living with constant pain.”
  • Your instinct will be to respond to the review to present your side of the case. This instinct will be even stronger if the review is unfounded. Unlike those businesses mentioned earlier however, you must keep HIPAA compliance in mind when making any decision related to patients. The unfortunate truth is that acknowledging an individual as a patient, or specific dates of their visit or the specific treatment in question on a public forum is a violation of HIPAA law and could lead to a HIPAA Complaint and an OCR investigation. This is regardless of what the patient has disclosed about themselves and their medical situation.

What Can I Do?

  • You can post a message in a way that does not directly address the patient but still speaks to the practice’s values and concern for patients. For Example, you can say “Our staff is a highly trained team of professionals that have been servicing happy and healthy patients for x # of years. We truly value all patient feedback and we are always willing to listen. We encourage all of our clients to contact us directly at any time to discuss their treatment and their experience in our office.”
  • In this scenario HIPAA may seem like an obstacle in your business, but you should always keep in mind all the patients that trust you and expect you to always protect their privacy and confidentiality and under any circumstances.

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