Is It Possible to Respond to Negative Online Reviews without Violating Patient Privacy?

June 10, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


​Healthcare providers are increasingly responding publicly to negative online reviews on websites like Yelp and violating patient privacy in the process, said a May 27, 2016 article in the Washington Post. Yelp offered ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization that copublished the piece, "unprecedented access" to its database in order to search for one-star reviews (the lowest rating) of doctors that mentioned violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The organization found more than a dozen instances in which a doctor's response to a negative review violated the patient's HIPAA rights. Patients, the author said, thus feel doubly wronged—first by what they deemed to be poor quality of care and then by a disregard for their privacy. The responses typically involved an inadvertent revealing of patient information while a doctor tried to defend him- or herself from negative public comments.

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