In a modern age, we turn to online reviews to decide just about anything. From restaurants, clothing stores, internet providers, to even schools and tourist destinations, the collective advice we can get from the internet is always deemed as a reliable source of information, especially when it comes to evaluating experiences.


Online reviews are perhaps one of the most important data any business could use to determine their success and improve operations, especially when 77% of patients turn to online reviews when finding a new doctor or clinic. This is especially true with medical practices that strive to improve their quality of care every single time.


Knowing Where To Look


Online reviews can be found everywhere. Healthgrades, RateMDs, WebMD, HealthGrove, ZocDoc, and Vitals are just some of the sites that are dedicated to doctor reviews. Yelp, known for its restaurant reviews, is also becoming popular to patients.


Patient reviews might seem like the scariest in the world. While most businesses can separate their personal and professional lives, it’s much harder for those practicing medicine to do this, because the quality of care you provide speaks about your principles and ethics as a person.


Beware Of PHI: Writing HIPAA-Compliant Reviews


There’s no reason to be afraid of reviews since most of them will turn out to be positive anyway. But there will come a time when you come across a bad review, telling you how unpleasant the experience was for one patient, or how inconsiderate one of your staff members were, or how hassle the process was for them.


Should you respond to bad reviews? Definitely. It is recommend that you respond to at least 20% of positive reviews and 100% of negative reviews.


But with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which covers Protected Health Information (PHI), responding to reviews can become a challenge, especially when you’re trying to provide context to a bad one and hopefully encourage the patient to visit your practice again.


The Art Of A Good Response


PHI refers to any information that can identify your patient. It’s things like name, phone number, birthdate, appointment date and time, test results, and diagnosis. Here’s a caveat: even if your patient acknowledges these in a review, it’s safer to steer clear of the specifics and stick to general ones instead.


Here’s how you can provide HIPAA-compliant feedback to both good and bad reviews:


  1. Begin With A Thoughtful Note: Whether you get a good or bad review, set up your response with a professional tone by thanking the patient for taking the time to review your service.


  1. Steer Clear Of References: It’s likely that nasty reviews will be anonymous and positive reviews will be under a patient’s real name. In either cases, it’s important to ensure that you don’t reveal any personal information about the patient and just focus on responding professionally.


For example, if Bethany201 said her head started hurting after waiting so long in your practice, it’s unwise to say stuff like “That’s probably because of your high blood pressure, Bethany” or anything similar to a diagnosis.


  1. Keep It Short And Simple: It doesn’t matter if you are responding to good and bad reviews. The safest way to HIPAA-compliance is a simple acknowledgement and thank you note. Given the example above, if you want to respond you can provide your clinic’s contact information and discuss the matter privately. Your response will be displayed in public and will show that you are dedicated to improving your service.


  1. Treat Reviews As Professional Advice: As medical practitioners, your number goal is to provide quality care to patients. And the best way to evaluate your performance is through online reviews. Look for underlying problems experienced by your patients and use this to improve operations, communication, and your overall performance.