FAQ: What can I do about negative patient reviews online?

October 03, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Practice Management 

Physicians may find themselves the subject of comments and reviews posted on health care-related consumer review websites. While studies have shown that most online reviews of physicians are positive, these websites can be a concern for physicians because inappropriate negative comments can damage physicians’ reputations and affect their practice.

The California Medical Association (CMA) recently hosted a webinar that provided an overview on how to monitor your digital presence, take control of information about you and your practice online, and develop and implement a social media policy. CMA members may download "How to Manage Your Professional Reputation Online" for free ($99 for non-members) in the CMA Resource Library.

CMA On-Call document #0401, "Online Consumer Review and Rating Sites," also discusses how physicians can manage and respond to comments about themselves and their practices on consumer review websites.

While physicians may want to respond to online reviews by patients, it is important to remember that such responses may violate a patient's confidentiality as well as federal and state privacy laws. The On-Call document discusses how physicians can address negative online comments and provides guidance for physicians faced with comments that are clearly false, inappropriate or inflammatory.

The document also provides helpful tips for physicians to monitor and control their online presence and possible legal remedies.

Physicians should also review CMA On-Call document #4100, "HIPAA Overview and Enforcement," which provides a general overview of their obligations surrounding patients' protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

CMA On-Call documents are available free to members in CMA’s online health law library at Health Law Library. Nonmembers can purchase documents for $2 per page in the CMA bookstore.

Contact: CMA legal information line, (800) 786-4262 or legalinfo@cmadocs.org.


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