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Respond to Online Reviews Without Breaking HIPAA

June 22, 2018

We love helping our clients with their marketing issues. Sometimes questions come in that we think others will benefit from knowing the answer. Here’s a great one:

Question: Our doctor’s office has several online negative reviews. How do we respond without breaking HIPAA laws?

Our Answer: Online reviews are important to your business. We used to depend on the referrals of family and friends to grow client bases. While personal recommendations are still vital, people using online reviews to select which practice they will use continues to grow.

Bad reviews leave a negative impression in a potential patient’s mind, and they haven’t even visited your office or seen your doctors. That said, due to patient confidentiality laws, it isn’t as easy for doctor’s offices to participate in best practices. For example, a doctor’s office should never confirm the person was a patient. Even if the reviewer gives his or her name and writes out every detail of their appointment, if the doctor indicates the individual is a patient, this could violate HIPAA laws.

So, what do you do when you get an online review? Here are some best practices:

Respond to the review.

Make it a habit of responding to the review as quickly as possible. This is the professional thing to do, and your reputation is on the line. Plus, we’ve seen businesses have less negative reviews if the company is listening and responding to criticism.

Make the response generic.

Do not reference the specific patient’s details or even verify the patient attended your practice. Ask that reviewer to contact the office at their convenience to discuss their concerns.

Be friendly and kind.

Even if it is a negative review, stay positive. Arguing over the review platform will not help your business. Stay away from online discussion and request the reviewer call the office.

Need some examples to understand what we are saying? Here are a few:

Example of a response to a positive review that breaks patient confidentiality:

Susan! Thank you for the excellent review. We love seeing you and your family when you come to our office. See you soon!

Example of a response to a positive review that is acceptable:

Thanks for the review. We are committed to offering our patients the very best care.

Example of a response to a negative review that breaks confidentiality:

I’m sorry. That isn’t how it happened. We tried our best to listen to your symptoms and concerns and make the best possible recommendations. We are sorry it didn’t work for you, but we tried our best.

Example of a response to a negative review that is acceptable:

Thank you for your feedback. We are continuously looking to improve. Please reach out to our office at [phone number] so we can learn more.

To sum up:

  • DO respond to reviews.
  • DON’T confirm as a patient.
  • DO be thankful and positive.
  • DON’T address issues online.

Hope this helps you and your practice!

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