HIPAA Compliance Part 2: How to Respond to Reviews

Digital Marketing Tips by Daniel Rostenne

Daniel Rostenne

In my last digital tip, I reviewed some of the legal considerations involved with responding to negative patient reviews in light of HIPAA compliance and as you can see, it’s clearly not a simple matter.  So, given these issues how should a practitioner respond to an unhappy client that feels the need to share his sentiments with potential new patients on the Internet?

First and foremost, it is our professional opinion that negative reviews should be addressed.  An absence of a response could be interpreted as a lack of concern for patient satisfaction and more importantly, it passes up on a valuable opportunity to share your voice and show how patient happiness is important to you and your staff. A positive and caring response can offset the initial negative review and win back potential patients that might otherwise be turned off.

Also, keep in mind that a negative review isn’t the end of the world. Research shows that potential customers trust businesses that have some negative reviews mixed in.

When it comes to HIPAA compliance our approach is to err on the side of caution to avoid having to learn the nuances of the laws the hard way. We recommend that our clients keep responses general, avoiding acknowledgement that the person is an actual patient.

Here are a couple of examples of responses that will both address the complaint but steer clear of any potential confidentiality claim:

“We care about our patient’s satisfaction and encourage our patients to directly contact us with any issues they have, however due to our oath of confidentiality, we cannot respond directly to online reviews or disclose any information which may violate our patients’ privacy.”

Or:

“We’re always sorry to hear of any inconvenience faced by any of our patients or clients. We respect our patients’ privacy, so it’s our policy to deal directly with patient issues, by calling the patient involved and resolving their issues in person rather than responding on a public forum. We’re committed to providing outstanding service to our patients and would love the opportunity to show all patients a quality and caring eye care experience.”

If you do choose to take this approach you can take the opportunity to show your concern for customer service and respond by educating the public about medical conditions and treatments, as long as confidential patient information is not revealed in the process.

Clearly there is disagreement, even among the experts, as to what constitutes implied consent and when you can acknowledge that someone is a patient. At EyeCarePro, we like to play it safe and recommend a cautious approach to our clients, but it really is the decision of each practice to do what it feels most comfortable with.

As I said before, getting more positive reviews is the best way to lessen the effect of negative ones. Need some help with your review strategy? We’re expert in that arena. Contact me atdaniel@eyecarepro.net or phone (412) 532-6542.

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