Thanks to easy accessibility to online reviews via the Internet and smartphone apps, the way that consumers shop for products and services is changing. In fact, patients can even utilize sites such as Yelp to find reviews on a prospective doctor. Typically, such websites also provide the service provider or merchant who was reviewed an opportunity to respond to unfavorable comments.
In the specific example of medical care, however, a professional has to walk a fine line. Specifically, a recent article suggests that saying too much could infringe upon a patient’s privacy rights, as protected by laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
A medical professional understandably has a stake in the type of reviews that are being posted about him or her. However, defending a diagnosis might cross the line and divulge too many details about a patient’s treatment history and private information. True, a response that demurs, rather than defends, a medical approach may seem to be a concession. However, that’s the reality of HIPAA as applied in the context of today’s virtual rating sites. A consultation with an attorney can clarify those legal obligations.
Notably, a far more pressing challenge to one’s professional reputation would come from a licensing board or authority. An administrative hearing regarding a professional licensing matter may also result in bad publicity. In that forum, a negative outcome could cost a professional his or her career.
Our law firm focuses on both criminal and administrative law. That combined focus gives us the perspective to act strategically and aggressively in response to a professional licensing inquiry. At the same time, we know how to approach the more casual procedural rules of an administrative forum.
Source: Washington Post, “Doctors fire back at bad Yelp reviews — and reveal patients’ information online,” Charles Ornstein, May 27, 2016