Negative Online Comments and a Legal Solution
Last week we told you about various online review sites, which ones to monitor and how to use them to your advantage. This week we have a little more information about how to protect yourself from negative reviews legally.
Someone has written a negative review of you online. It might not even be a real patient of yours, since it’s an anonymous review. HIPAA can severely limit your ability to respond. What can you do?
Some physicians are opting for a preventative legal solution to combat negative reviews. Medical Justice, founded by neurosurgeon Jeffrey Segal, MD, provides waiver forms for patients to sign, agreeing to not post comments online. The fee is $495, with an estimated yearly renewal of $350 per physician.
“The Internet is here to stay and ratings are inevitable. Our concern is that these sites use anecdotal commentary and subjective opinions as a surrogate for quality of care. The chasm between likability and quality of care is great,” says Dr. Segal.
Recent stories from the Chicago Tribune, Good Morning America, and Modern Healthcare have characterized the patient consents as a “gag order.” Dr. Segal disagrees. “In every other industry if something is open to debate there are two sides to it. In this case physicians can’t respond due to HIPAA. What we’re trying to do is provoke a national discussion and bring doctors to the table.”
In a written response to Modern Healthcare, Segal listed four things that would make online ratings sites much more reasonable and fair.
- Make sure the posting reviewer was, in fact, a patient.
- Require a minimum of between 30 and 50 ratings before making them public.
- Allow commentary only on subjective impressions and not technical details, unless they are backed up by an expert.
- Post a caveat that ratings and commentary are not a surrogate for objective measures of quality of care.
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