You probably already know that due to HIPAA, you are limited with regard to how and what you can communicate with patients online. But did you realize that staying HIPAA compliant when responding to online reviews is becoming more and more risky for doctors? A recent article co-published by ProPublica and The Washington Post provides examples of violations, based on unique access they were provided to over 1.7 million Yelp reviews. As this article states, (emphasis added): “The law forbids [health care providers] from disclosing any patient health information without permission.”
Still not sure about this? The best thing you can do is speak to your attorney and/or other HIPAA experts. Don’t have access to a HIPAA expert? Find one now! Don’t like dealing with lawyers? Believe me, you’ll like it less when one is presenting you with a HIPAA violation.
If you’d like to learn more now, check out the links below. Along with each article, you’ll find a quote that gets to the heard of this matter:
“Follow HIPAA. The medical profession is uniquely hampered in its ability to respond to online reviews because of patient privacy laws. You simply cannot disclose any protected health information in your response, because the patient has not given you consent to do so. The fact that the patient may have disclosed private information in his initial review does not give you permission to do the same in response.”
“Even if a patient chooses to disclose personal information online, a physician is still prevented from doing so without that patient’s consent”
“Never publicly discuss patient specifics. A patient can post anything they want about their visit with you, but it is a major HIPAA violation for you to say anything about them in a response.”
“Some doctors assume that if patients publicly disclose protected health information on their own, doctors are free to respond. This is not accurate. The reason is simple: The doctor does not have the patient’s permission to disclose protected health information—regardless of whether the patient did so first on her own.”