Responding to Online Reviews

August 05, 2017

Physicians must be aware that when responding to an online review they could potentially be in violation of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Doctors could be quick to react to defend their practices and themselves if browsing online and coming across a negative review or complaint written by a former or current patient. Interacting with the online review could potentially expose personal medical information, which ultimately is a HIPAA violation. Any response from the physician that offers advisement to the patient creates a violation.

If a doctor does want to respond to something they’ve found at an online review site, they should learn the website they are looking at. When using Yelp, the leading crowd-sourced rating site, if the review is on an unclaimed page the physician can claim the page and control the information being displayed. They can also create their own business listing within the site where they have access to review information posted. The same features are available on Facebook and Google+ to claim your business and control the information available to the public.

When responding to a review containing criticism, a physician should react the same way they would with the patient in their office. Avoid identifying the reviewer as a patient. Keep the response short and thank the individual reviewing for sharing their concern. The physician may even extend the opportunity to discuss the concern over the phone.

It is important for the physician and practice to monitor online reviews and ratings. A policy and procedure document should also be part of the practice HIPAA Manual outlining the policy regarding patient complaints and reviews. It is most important that the physician responds to an unhappy patient directly by listening, letting the patient know the plan to resolution, and reasons for their treatment protocols. If heard, a patient is more likely to change their tune and even update their review online.