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More and more, patients are sharing their healthcare experiences on online review platforms such as Google+, Yelp and Angie’s List. These reviews shape your business’ reputation and have the power to prompt or dissuade new visitors. While you can’t control the content of reviews, you can influence how people perceive your business by responding with respect and sensitivity.

Reaching out to patients who have reviewed your service will humanize your business and demonstrate that their feedback matters. If their review is positive, you can thank them for their comments. If it’s negative, you can apologize and address the issues head-on. Your response is an opportunity for collaboration and transparency.

Before you begin responding to patient reviews, it’s important to understand how to do so in accordance with the privacy laws of HIPAA. When a patient posts a review that describes their experience with your business, they may state details about their medical history. This is their prerogative. However, legally, it does not forfeit their right to privacy and as a medical provider, it’s your duty to maintain it. You cannot discuss any details about their medical needs, visit or even acknowledge that they are indeed a patient. This makes responding tricky, but not impossible. Follow the guidelines below to write effective, HIPAA-compliant responses.

1. Explain your consideration of HIPAA.
Help your audience understand that your generalized response is out of respect for the privacy of your patients.  “Under HIPAA, I am unable to discuss the specifics of this user’s review.”

2. Cite company policies.
Since you are unable to discuss specifics, cite general company policies that correspond to the issue at hand. This helps communicate the values of your business without crossing HIPAA.

3. Be courteous and professional.
This is a best practice as a business owner. It’s difficult and unnecessary to win an argument with a frustrated patient so keep your responses helpful and diplomatic.

4. Say thank you.
Show your patients and visitors that you appreciate their feedback, whether it’s good or bad, by thanking your reviewers. This demonstrates that you respect their opinion and are open to constructive criticism.

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