Responding Gracefully to Yelp Negativity – Without Violating HIPAA

By: Melody Gandy-Bohr

It doesn’t matter if your practice is the perfect example of professionalism and patient care, at some point you will receive a negative review. While you certainly have the right to defend your practice when responding to reviews, it’s important to exercise caution. Doctors, dentists and other physicians are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect their patient’s private health information. Violating HIPAA can lead to serious consequences for your practice. Read this guide before hastily responding to a negative review.

Understand What You Cannot Disclose
More often than not, negative Yelp reviews are complaints about rude receptionists or long wait times. However, when a patient leaves a review regarding treatment, your response to that review cannot reference their treatment — even if the patient mentioned it first. While trying to combat a negative review, one dentist in Washington disclosed details of the patient’s dental records. It is a HIPAA violation to disclose any aspect of the patient’s diagnosis or treatment. Knowing the law can save your practice from being reported or fined.

When In Doubt, Take the Conversation Offline
Depending on the nature of the review, it might serve your practice to refrain from responding online. Whether you need more information or the complaint is very inflammatory, err on the side of caution and take the conversation offline. If you need more information to address a concern presented in a review, never ask the reviewer for any of their private health details. Instead, direct the reviewer to contact your practice to further discuss the matter. Innocent inquiries, such as asking for the date the patient visited your practice on a public forum, could result in a HIPAA violation.

Reread, Reflect, Then Respond
The most important lesson when responding to negative reviews is to think before you leap. Never respond to a reviewer when you’re feeling angry or defensive. Take a moment to reread the review, take it in and then carefully respond. At the end of the day, the patient is always right (even when they’re not). Take the high road and apologize to the reviewer for the bad experience and offer a solution if applicable. A professional response not only protects your patient’s privacy, it also protects your practice’s reputation.

As long as online review sites like Yelp exist, so will negative reviews. If you can learn not to take negativity on Yelp personally, you can keep your practice’s HIPAA compliance intact.

3 Reputation-Saving Tips: What Not to Do on Social Media

By: Melody Gandy-Bohr

With just a few keystrokes on a computer, your practice’s online reputation can be built up or torn down. It’s not just negative reviews on Yelp or Google that can affect your practice. Your own social media habits can be doing more harm than good. Where social media is concerned, no one can hurt your practice as badly as you can by posting too much or worse — not taking any action at all. Avoid making these three social media mistakes to protect your practice’s online reputation.

Don’t Post Infrequently

It’s not enough to set-up social media accounts for your practice. If you want to develop a thriving web presence, post regularly and engage with followers. After all, a study released by Pew Research Center shows that 72% of Facebook users log on daily and 43% log on multiple times a day. Followers won’t engage with you if you’re not active on social media. Posts with practice updates and interesting articles encourage your followers to engage with you. Be sure to post often and respond to comments to show your followers that you’re listening to them.

Avoid Irrelevant, ‘Spam’ Content

Keeping your followers means keeping them happy, and avoiding pitfalls that may drive them away. A newsfeed full of “spam” posts is perhaps one of the fastest ways to lose your hard-won following. This includes posting on topics that are unrelated to your industry or your patients, blatant sales pitches, and posting the same thing numerous times in a row. This type of social media behavior can paint your practice as inept and uncreative, and will likely cost you Facebook and Twitter followers. Keep your posts focused and try not to overwhelm your follower’s newsfeeds.

Don’t Focus Solely On Your Practice

No one enjoys being stuck in a conversation with someone who only wants to talk about themself. Arguably, social media mimics that same one-sided conversation with billions of users. When it comes to your practice, it’s best to find a healthy balance between self-promotion and catering to your followers. Sharing the occasional offer is acceptable, but try to mix it up with useful content. Your followers will be thankful and more likely to share your promotional posts.

Avoid making these social media mistakes and your followers may turn into loyal patients. Remember, like most things, mastering the art of social media will take time! Post consistently and engage with your followers, and your online reputation will flourish.