Physicians have a big challenge when it comes to managing online reviews: HIPAA. Although patients may say whatever they like, doctors are bound by HIPAA not to release certain information, and the lines can be blurry.
FURTHER READING: It's a huge mistake if you're not on social media
Many doctors don’t respond to reviews at all, which can damage efforts to get new patients. There’s a right way to manage reviews, and I’m going to show you how.
How Does HIPAA Apply to Online Reviews?
Let’s look at a quick example. Have you ever seen a review like this on Google?
“I went to Dr. Abram for severe pain in my abdomen. He ran no tests, gave me no pain medication, and told me to go home and rest. What a waste of time!”
FURTHER READING: Watch out for these HIPAA violations in online reviews
Then, Dr. Abram replies: “Sophie, the symptoms you presented didn’t warrant tests. We ruled out appendicitis and other infections. You had no fever, and the pain was moderate. We don’t normally give out pain medication for issues like yours. If you still have severe pain, please come back or go to your nearest urgent care facility.”
There are two clear HIPAA violations here:
Dr. Abram confirmed the individual is a patient.
Dr. Abram gave out medical details the patient didn't mention in the original complaint.
I Have a Negative Review. What Should I Do?
So a patient blasted you online. Where do you start? Below are four simple steps for responding to a negative review:
1. Figure Out What Happened: Speak with your office manager and your nurse—whomever you need to. But you must understand EXACTLY what happened. There is almost always another side to a negative review that provides more context.
2. Appeal to the Publisher: Review sites site Yelp, Google MyBusiness, and others have Terms of Service reviewers must follow. For example, many sites require reviewers to be actual customers, not employees or friends of a customer. Most sites ban profanity and harassment. In some cases, you can get a review removed by appealing to the publisher.
3. Reach Out to the Reviewer Privately: If the review is not appealable, the next-best step is to reach out offline to the customer. Remember, the ultimate goal is to remove the review. Most reviewers leave online reviews because they feel marginalized. When you reach out, make sure you listen first. Once they have had their say, give your point of view. Don’t argue with them or blame them…if you do, the conversation will be over. Offer a resolution to them, then ask if they would be willing to take the review down. In many cases, they will.
4. Respond as a Last Resort: If appealing and reaching out don’t work, or if you aren’t sure who the reviewer is, you’ll need to respond to the review. Your response should do these things:
a. Thank the reviewer for their feedback.
b. Reinforce how serious you are about patient satisfaction and privacy.
c. Demonstrate you care about your patients and want to rectify the situation. Include how they can communicate with you offline.
Here’s an example:
“Dear Sophie, thanks for your feedback. At Local City Healthcare, we take patient satisfaction seriously. In order to protect our patient’s privacy, we prefer to handle situations like these offline.
“Would you be willing to call my office at 555-555-1212 and ask to speak with me, so I can better understand the situation?
“Thanks in advance for your help. – Dr. Abram”
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Daryl Johnson is the founder of Frontier Marketing, a Premier Google Partner and BingAds Partner
advertising agency located in North Texas. Daryl holds all six certifications in Google AdWords and is
BingAds accredited too. Daryl focuses on providing strategic direction for clients, and has deep industry
experience in healthcare and technology.