[ Monday, April 10, 2017 ]


Doctors and Bad Yelp Reviews: Well, Yelp isn't the only one.  There are quite a few social media sites that allow customers to post reviews of businesses.  What happens when a reviewer posts a bad review?  What can the business do?

In some cases, the business can sue the reviewer, particularly if the business can prove that the review is false.  In fact, that just happened in respect to a couple of jewelers in Massachusetts, where a jewelry store worker wrote a bogus bad review of a rival jeweler.

But it's a lot more difficult for a business owner to fight a bad review if the business is a HIPAA covered entity.  While a patient is free to discuss his PHI whenever, wherever, and however he wants, the doctor can't use or disclose any PHI in response; the fact that the patient put the information out there first doesn't change that.

So what can a provider do?  Here's a good article with a few good tips.

I'd also add that you can respond directly on the rating site, but need to do so in a way that does not disclose PHI.  For example, if a patient complained (falsely) that she was not allowed to sit in on her 12-year-old's exam, the practice could respond as follows: "While HIPAA prohibits me from discussing any patient specifically, I can say that it is the policy of this practice that we do not provide medical exams to patients under the age of 16 without the parent being in the room.  I have reviewed the medical records from all visits to the practice by patients under 16 during the past six months and have not identified any patients under 16 who were seen without a parent in the exam room."  This does not disclose any PHI, but does allow the practice to make a general defense of itself.

Jeff [4:33 PM]

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