Attorneys Advocating For Illinois Healthcare Practitioners And Providers

What medical professionals shouldn’t do about bad online reviews

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2023 | Healthcare Law

Medical professionals rely on a combination of referrals from other professionals and their community reputation to connect with new patients. Occasionally, existing patients may take issue with the services that they received and could leave a very negative online review.

A case from a few years ago involving a frustrated dentist is a perfect example of how to not handle complaints and negative reviews online.

Direct responses can be quite dangerous

In a case that shocks most people familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a dentist responded to a patient’s online review left on Google with inflammatory language. Not only did they name the individual and discuss their health care, but they also made statements about that individual’s intelligence.

The angry patient did not accept that response and filed a complaint. The dentist eventually faced significant penalties. There was an order to pay $50,000 in civil penalties due to a violation of HIPAA privacy rules. Additionally, the inflammatory response left by the dentist undoubtedly did more harm than the angry review from that client.

A professional responding to negative feedback left online has multiple options available to them. They can leave a generic response to the individual review thanking someone for their feedback or requesting that they reach out to resolve the matter. That will look professional and appropriate to anyone who sees the review in the future.

They might also attempt to solicit new reviews from other, happier clients. This approach can help bury a single unfavorable review and increase the overall rating issued to a business. Those in the medical field will need to ensure that individual employees, including those handling the practice’s online presence, understand HIPAA and the practice’s privacy policy. Otherwise, it is possible for the response to a negative review to do more harm than the review itself ever could have caused.

As a result, having appropriate privacy policies and a proactive attitude about managing a practice’s online reputation can make a major difference for those in the healthcare industry.