Your medical practices is like any other business, in that it has an online presence — which means that sometimes, online reviews are posted, and they aren’t always positive. However, responding to online reviews, even if you feel you’re simply defending your practice, can land you in hot water if your response accidentally violates patient privacy.
To stay out of the HIPAA hot seat, check out eight potential ways to respond to online reviews from patients that allow you to retain patient privacy.
1. Keep Your Response General
When responding to online reviews from patients, it may be a good idea to share your general policies and procedures, but avoid discussing that patient’s personal situation. For instance, if the patient review says, “My doctor ran 8 minutes late for my knee replacement consultation,” you might reply, “Our general policy is that any time the physician is running more than 10 minutes behind, we alert the patient and offer them another slot.” This comment allows you to share your policy without discussing the patient’s specific scenario.
2. Consider Responding Offline
If you see a review that you’d like to provide a more personalized response to, consider reaching out to the patient offline and sharing your perspective while offering to make the situation better. If your response pleases them, they might consider removing the review independently. This approach typically works much better than trying to hash out the situation publicly.
3. Share Your Review Response Policy Online
You might want to include a statement on your website indicating you will not be responding to reviews posted online. For instance, your website might say, “We love feedback about our practice, but we do not respond to online reviews because we want to maintain the integrity of the reviews and we are very serious about avoiding HIPAA violations.” This lets the public know that you aren’t simply ignoring negative reviews, but that it’s your policy to stay quiet about them.
4. Ask the Platform to Remove the Post if It Violates Guidelines
Because online review platforms generate revenue through the comments people post online, they aren’t usually eager to remove online reviews. However, there are codes of conduct on these platforms and they usually have a process and standards that must be followed. If your patient ran afoul of those standards with their review, you can ask the platform to take the post down.
5. Consider Your Practice’s Reputation
Before responding online to patient reviews, think about how your response might look to the public. Even if you take every step to protect patients’ privacy, you might still come out looking petty if you respond the wrong way. In the long run, it might be better to have a few negative reviews than responding in a rude way publicly to try and correct one bad review.
6. Confirm Your Policies and Training Protocols
Even if you’ve done everything right and you protect PHI, the patient might just feel like they want to hurt your practice based on your response to their review, which means they could escalate the situation and complain to the HHS about you. If they do, you’ll get an inquiry of some type, which means you must have all your HIPAA policies in place, and you must be up to date with your training so you can pass any investigation with flying colors. So always double-check that you have HIPAA compliance locked down at all times and you don’t miss any training opportunities at your practice.
Protect your practice’s compliance with more tips on responding to online reviews during the latest online training from Joseph J. Lazzarotti, Esq. Register for Respond to Patient Negative Reviews Online Without Violating HIPAA today for specific strategies your practice can use!
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