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HIPAA-Compliance Guidelines: How To Respond To Reviews

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Did you know that there are actually HIPAA guidelines when responding to online reviews?

Yep, there are!

But why is it important to respond to these Google, Yelp, or any other online reviews in the first place? Well, it is good to engage with your audience, especially in this day and age when anything and everything is posted online in forums, social media platforms,

Commence the Yelp, Google Reviews, everywhere!

Don't be overwhelmed. This is also a great way to build trust with potential clients and engage with your current clients. Taking the time to respond to a negative review can help turn a bad situation into an opportunity to connect with possible new clients.

Those who work in the healthcare field or the mental health field should take every precaution necessary when they choose to respond to reviews. HIPAA was designed to protect patients. So how does this come into play when responding to an online review?

If you choose to respond to an online review without considering the consequences, it could land you in some pretty deep water with some hefty fines and legal actions.

So how can you handle this situation should it arise? Healthcare professionals can respond to these reviews--it just takes a little more thought and consideration in doing so. You should respect the clients’ privacy and their rights.

But if they leave a review in a public forum, doesn't that automatically show that they are a patient in your practice? Well, yes, but that is not an authorization for you to release their private records or information. When responding to these reviews, you should never indicate that this person is or was your client. Here is a wonderful example provided by Roadside Dental Marketing that will show you how to respond to a negative review.

Example review: “I had to wait more than an hour to be seen, and the front desk lady was rude and didn’t seem concerned with my long wait at all. When I finally saw the dentist, he only spent a few minutes with me and seemed rushed.”

  • BAD response: “We’re sorry you had a bad experience with our team during your appointment and we’d love the opportunity to make it right.”

  • GOOD HIPAA-compliant response: “When scheduling, it’s our policy to allow plenty of time with the doctor so we can keep our schedule running on time. However, because of emergency situations, it is possible to be behind schedule occasionally. We appreciate your feedback and are committed to providing the best patient care; you’re welcome to send any other comments to our Office Manager Debbie at (email address).”

  • Why it works: The content of the response is generic and focuses on the practice’s policies. It doesn’t confirm the reviewer is a patient. It also provides an opportunity to take the conversation offline.

There are many factors to consider when you are responding to online reviews. The “human” part of you wants to defend yourself and your practice. But the “professional, HIPAA compliant” part of you knows to protect your patient and their privacy, no matter what they may sling your way.

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