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September 05, 2017

Beware of HIPAA When Responding To Negative Reviews Posted Online

Volume 17, Number 8 • August 2017 Report on Patient Privacy As medical review sites proliferate and cumulatively rack up millions of views per day, physicians and health care systems need to understand what they can—and often more importantly, can’t—say online in response to a negative review. Consumers who frequent online review sites for other industries…

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Volume 17, Number 8 • August 2017
Report on Patient Privacy

As medical review sites proliferate and cumulatively rack up millions of views per day, physicians and health care systems need to understand what they can—and often more importantly, can’t—say online in response to a negative review.

Consumers who frequent online review sites for other industries are accustomed to seeing responses to reviews, especially to negative reviews. But “hands are tied for the provider,” says health care law attorney Robert Coffield, who practices with Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC in Charleston, W.Va. “The [HIPAA] rules don’t allow them to actively participate in the discussion,” Coffield tells RPP.

Health care providers—or their representatives—can engage people online who post negative reviews, but they need to be extremely cautious when doing so, other medical privacy experts also say.

“When patients are looking at reviews, they want to see a response back,” but health care practitioners must be mindful of HIPAA privacy rules at all times, says Andrew Rainey, executive vice president of strategy and corporate development for Binary Fountain, which provides patient feedback management solutions designed specifically for health care.

Rainey tells RPP that he recommends responding briefly online, but then shifting the conversation out of the public space to a secure platform as quickly as possible.

“It obviously makes sense to respond to negative reviews,” says Rainey. “But that’s not to say it makes sense to respond to all of them. You get a feel for what type warrant a response. I understand frustration on the physicians’ side, but consumerism is very real.”

When HIPAA was enacted and the regulations were written, social media didn’t exist, Coffield says. Therefore, stakeholders are attempting to apply it in a way that wasn’t envisioned at the time, he says, adding, “I think a lot of people have struggled with it.”

Over the past seven or eight years, Coffield says, physician and hospital clients evolved on their thinking about implementing a social media policy. Initially, he says, most organizations avoided all social media, due to HIPAA regulations. But as social media has matured, “it starts to get to the point where we have to let [employees] on social media to do their job.”

“My sense and my recommendation is, you want to work towards a pro-social media policy that educates and informs employees what they can and can’t do on social media” to comply with HIPAA, Coffield says. “You almost can’t sit back and not respond” to negative feedback, since failing to respond looks far worse than a HIPAA compliant response. “You need to have a well thought-out policy to respond.”

Medical Rating Sites Abound

Reviews come in a variety of formats on a growing number of websites, and can range from simple star ratings to anonymous essays. Different sites handle comments and reviews in varying ways:

  • Facebook offers an option for businesses to add a space for reviews to their pages, but clients also can leave public comments on a business or personal timeline. Either way, the physician or health care entity in question can post a response or open a dialogue. Most people on Facebook post under their own names.
  • Twitter doesn’t offer a reviews option—instead, users can post and share comments, called tweets, that “tag,” or identify, a subject such as a physician or hospital. The physician or hospital in question can respond by replying to the comment. Twitter is not primarily a review site, and it does not gather reviews in one place. Some people use pseudonyms on Twitter.
  • Yelp, which is better known as a site to find restaurant and hotel ratings, also has a plethora of reviews for doctors, hospitals and other health care facilities. Entities can post responses to reviews, and many do so. Yelp users can post under their own names, but most do not.
  • Zocdoc combines reviews and appointment scheduling, offering users the ability to search physicians and other health care providers by specialty and insurance accepted, and then schedule an appointment via the app or website. Reviews can include first names, and Zocdoc notes when a reviewer is a “verified patient.”
  • RateMDs, a site specifically for doctor reviews and ratings, allows anonymous written reviews and provides health care practitioners with the opportunity to write a response to those reviews. The site has more than two million ratings.
  • Healthgrades, which has high web traffic, has come in for plenty of criticism from health care practitioners because it allows anonymous reviews without verification that the reviewer is a patient. The site does allow providers to respond to negative reviews, but physicians have cited HIPAA concerns as part of what they say is an inability to properly refute unfair reviews.

Some sites, such as WebMD, allow users the chance to provide a star rating for a health care practitioner or facility, but don’t give the opportunity for comments from the reviewers or responses from the practitioners.

Offer To Speak with Unhappy Patients

Physicians and other health care entities cannot respond directly to specific patient complaints in negative reviews, Coffield says.

“You can either be silent, or if it’s your patient, you can follow up directly with the patient,” he says, adding that it’s best to bring the patient into the office to deal with the complaint directly, person-to-person. “You can’t respond [like that] online,” or even by phone, he emphasizes, even though he acknowledges that “it’s difficult for physicians to do, especially older physicians where they’re used to compliant patients.”

Replying directly online, even without addressing specific complaints, has to be done extremely carefully in order to comply with HIPAA regulations, Coffield says. He adds that a HIPAA-compliant response might read something like: “This website is not the proper forum for these types of discussions. If you have an issue with this particular provider, contact the facility.”

He adds, “You should respond in almost a webmaster-type fashion, and then immediately call the person [if the person can be identified] and say, ‘I just saw your post, and I’d like you to come in and talk about it.’”

There shouldn’t be anything problematic about responding to a negative review by saying, “Please give me a call at this number,” Coffield says. But getting into detailed discussions—even through Facebook and Twitter’s private messaging systems—is “pushing the envelope.”

“A lot of providers think if they don’t say who the patient is or don’t divulge many details that they’re not violating HIPAA—they’re keeping confidential information confidential,” Coffield says. However, protected health information under HIPAA includes information that could give someone the ability to identify a patient, and social media posts that include even scant detail could do that, he says.

Anonymous reviews pose even more significant problems, Coffield says. “Engaging validates the patient on the other side, and with some of these people you can’t win—the more you engage, the more you anger them. But at the same time, failure to respond at all might anger them, even if the response is, I’m not going to respond.” In those cases, provider organizations should attempt to take the discussion offline, but also should be prepared to stop engaging entirely, he says.

Develop a Response Policy for Reviews

Binary Fountain works with clients to manage their social media presence. When it comes to review sites, Rainey says, most feedback tends to be positive or neutral, but it appears more realistic for the provider to have a few less-than-stellar reviews in the mix: “You want to have a mix of positive and negative reviews.”

Deciding to respond online to negative reviews, even in a minimal, HIPAA-compliant fashion, requires a case-by-case analysis, says Rainey. For example, if a provider only has two reviews, and one is negative, then “maybe” it would be worth a response to balance out the negativity, he says, although “obviously not with any level of detail” that speaks specifically to outcomes or to anything identifiable about the case.

On Facebook, where names are clearly visible and usually real, Rainey suggests replying to negative comments using language like this: “I’m sorry to hear about your negative experience. We strive to ensure that these negative experiences don’t happen to anyone.” Then the reply should urge the person to call or email the office, in an effort to “take the conversation offline.”

For example, Binary Fountain client Providence Health & Services, based in Renton, Wash., responded to a negative Facebook post from a man who said he was disappointed in his care: “This is certainly not the feedback we like hearing from our patients, Dave. We strive to provide each and every one of our patients with the highest level of compassionate care possible. Thank you for taking the time to share about your experience, as it is what helps us to improve our overall quality of service.”

Other hospitals take a similar approach. For example, Sentara Regional Medical Center in Williamsburg, Va., responded to a negative review by saying: “We always strive to give the best patient care and are very sorry to see this happened to you and your wife. Please send your contact information to 1800Sentara@Sentara. com so we can route you to the appropriate patient advocate and learn more.”

On Yelp, the approach is again similar, even if the reviews are anonymous. Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago responded to a recent negative review by saying: “Thank you for your honest feedback and we are sorry to hear about the troubles that you’ve experienced. If you haven’t already spoken with our Patient Relations Department, please fill out the following online form and our team will be in touch to help. Thank you.”

Twitter requires shorter replies—it’s limited to 140 characters—but the format still allows for the standard “please get in touch” approach recommended by experts. For example, an anonymous Twitter user tweeted at Providence Health & Services recently, saying “@ Prov_Health thanks for costing me thousands of dollars. Worthless criminals should [be] ashamed.” Providence replied, “Is there something we can help you with? Please dm [direct message] us and we are happy to look into your concern.”

Doctors Advised to Remain Mum

It’s important to train physicians not to respond directly and impulsively to negative reviews, Rainey says.

“We see physicians who do take this very personally,” he says, adding that “we do not recommend the physician respond back—oftentimes that’s going to involve ‘shooting from the hip.’” Responding to negative online reviews or comments in an emotional manner can result in major HIPAA problems, he adds.

“Inherently, it is incredibly challenging for the average patient to provide an accurate review of the quality of care they received,” Rainey says. “And it’s not just the quality of the procedure—it’s the parking, the quality of the front desk staff,” and other factors, some of which are not under the provider’s control.

Instead of the physician responding directly to negative comments, an established marketing team— assuming one is in place—can be trained and tasked with formulating responses, he says. The message from that marketing team to physicians should be: “Please do not go and create your own account and respond to this.”

Appropriate, measured responses can sometimes even persuade a reviewer to change the review, Rainey says. In one case, he says, a reviewer posted a negative review of a large hospital system’s emergency department on Yelp, but revised the star rating upward after the emergency room director reached out personally.

Contact Coffield at RCoffield@FlahertyLegal.com and Rainey via Binary Fountain spokesperson Michiko Morales at michim@gabrielmarketing.com.✧

Copyright © 2017, Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA). This article, published in Report on Patient Privacy, appears here with permission from the HCCA. Call HCCA at 888-580-8373 with reprint requests or email us at service@hcca-info.org.

About the Author

Kayla Zamary
Marketing Manager

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August 17, 2017

Binary Fountain, Kyruus Integrate to Enhance Patient Acquisition & Engagement

via HIT Consultant Binary Fountain, a provider of patient feedback management solutions is teaming up with Kyruus, a provider search and scheduling solutions for health systems to increase online patient acquisition and improve patient experience. As part of the partnership, Kyruus wil integrate its Kyruus’ ProviderMatch for Consumers, a web-based provider search and scheduling solution…

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via HIT Consultant

HIT ConsultantBinary Fountain, a provider of patient feedback management solutions is teaming up with Kyruus, a provider search and scheduling solutions for health systems to increase online patient acquisition and improve patient experience. As part of the partnership, Kyruus wil integrate its Kyruus’ ProviderMatch for Consumers, a web-based provider search and scheduling solution health systems embed in their websites with Binary Star Ratings, a healthcare transparency solution.

Click here to read the full article on HIT Consultant.

About the Author

Kayla Zamary
Marketing Manager

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August 15, 2017

Binary Fountain and Kyruus Announce Partnership to Enhance Patient Acquisition and Engagement for Health Systems

The seamless integration of Binary Star Ratings and Kyruus ProviderMatch for Consumers will enable health systems to better educate, inform, and engage their patients online MCLEAN, Va. & BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Binary Fountain, the leading provider of patient feedback management solutions with one of the largest repositories of online patient reviews and surveys in the healthcare industry,…

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The seamless integration of Binary Star Ratings and Kyruus ProviderMatch for Consumers will enable health systems to better educate, inform, and engage their patients online

MCLEAN, Va. & BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Binary Fountain, the leading provider of patient feedback management solutions with one of the largest repositories of online patient reviews and surveys in the healthcare industry, and Kyruus, a leader in provider search and scheduling solutions for health systems, announced today a new partnership that helps healthcare organizations increase online patient acquisition and improve patient experience.

The partnership creates a seamless integration between Kyruus’ ProviderMatch for Consumers, a web-based provider search and scheduling solution health systems embed in their websites, and Binary Star Ratings, a healthcare transparency solution. The integration will also be available to health systems leveraging the ProviderMatch APIs to power their online search experiences. The integration answers health systems’ needs for enhancing provider directory pages – helping patients select the right providers through advanced search, online ratings and reviews, and appointment scheduling.

With healthcare consumerism on the rise, health systems and healthcare providers are recognizing the need to proactively manage their online reputation to acquire and engage new and existing patients. Using a health system’s existing CG-CAHPS or HCAHPS patient experience surveys, Binary Star Ratings converts the patient responses into online ratings and reviews that are published on provider directory pages. The partnership provides a turnkey solution with Binary Fountain directly feeding verified reviews and star ratings onto the provider profiles within ProviderMatch. The high volume of online reviews helps boost provider profiles in search engine results.

“Our commitment to advancing reputation management and patient experience in the healthcare industry is further reinforced through this unique partnership with Kyruus,” said Ramu Potarazu, president and CEO of Binary Fountain. “Together, Binary Fountain and Kyruus will continue to lead healthcare consumer innovation, helping healthcare organizations engage patients who are making one of the most important decisions in their journey – selecting the right provider for their care.”

Through its multi-channel platform for access centers, consumers, and referral networks, Kyruus helps health systems optimize patient access across multiple points of entry. Its consumer-facing solution enables health systems to display comprehensive provider profiles and offer robust provider search capabilities on their websites to attract consumers and convert demand. Through the digital integration between Kyruus and Binary Fountain, health systems can offer consumers an even richer, more informative online experience.

“Healthcare consumers are increasingly searching for providers online and seeking the digital experiences they’ve become accustomed to in other industries,” said Julie Yoo, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Kyruus. “Our partnership with Binary Fountain enables health systems to implement transparency programs and enhance their provider profiles with patient ratings and reviews, so that consumers can make more informed healthcare decisions.”

Both Kyruus and Binary Fountain are venture backed by Providence Ventures—the venture capital arm of Providence St. Joseph Health, one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the United States. Providence is also a mutual customer of the two companies.

Alongside Providence, the University of Miami Health System (UHealth) will be among the first adopters of the integrated solution. “As we innovate and enhance patient access online, it’s important for us to be able to meet consumer demand for reviews from fellow patients,” said Roymi Membiela, Chief Experience Officer and Associate VP of Marketing & Communications at UHealth. “We’re excited that this integration will give us an automated way to showcase these reviews in our online provider profiles.”

About Binary Fountain

Binary Fountain is the leading provider of patient feedback management solutions designed specifically for healthcare in a single cloud-based platform. Its patient experience platform is built on a proprietary healthcare-centric Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine that mines patient feedback from surveys, online ratings and review sites, social media, and other data sources to equip its customers with the actionable insights needed to improve patient satisfaction and loyalty, increase engagement and drive sustainable bottom-line results. Leading organizations, large and small, rely on Binary Fountain to understand the patient experience, drive comprehensive operational intelligence throughout the organization, and engage patients with innovative transparency and reputation management solutions. For more information, visit www.binaryfountain.com or follow on Twitter @binaryfountain.

About Kyruus

Kyruus delivers proven provider search and scheduling solutions that help hospitals and health systems match patients with the providers best suited to care for them. The ProviderMatch suite of solutions—for consumers, access centers, and referral networks—enables a consistent patient experience across multiple points of access, while aligning provider supply with patient demand. The company’s proprietary provider data management platform forms the foundation of its solutions, powering them with accurate data by coupling data processing with administrative applications. To find out why a Better Match Means Better Care, please visit www.kyruus.com.

 

Contacts

Binary Fountain
Kenneth Brooks, 202-550-5725
kbrooks@binaryfountain.com
or
Gabriel Marketing Group
Jacob Westfall, 440-823-2738
JacobW@gabrielmarketing.com
or
Aria Marketing for Kyruus
Danielle Johns, 617-332-9999 ext. 241
djohns@ariamarketing.com

 

About the Author

Kayla Zamary
Marketing Manager

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August 03, 2017

Three Ways Reputation Management Is Changing Healthcare

via Social Media Monthly Binary Fountain’s EVP of Strategy & Corporate Development, Andrew Rainey discusses with Social Media Monthly how healthcare consumerism and patient experience are changing the healthcare industry. Click here to read the full article on Socia Media Monthly.

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via Social Media Monthly

Binary Fountain’s EVP of Strategy & Corporate Development, Andrew Rainey discusses with Social Media Monthly how healthcare consumerism and patient experience are changing the healthcare industry.

Click here to read the full article on Socia Media Monthly.

About the Author

Kayla Zamary
Marketing Manager

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July 19, 2017

Three Reasons Why People Are the Key to a Successful Purpose Transformation

via Inc. Binary Fountain’s SVP of Marketing, Aaron Clifford discusses with Inc. how company purpose has transformed the customer relationship.   Click here to read the full article on Inc. “Study after study indicates that what Millennials care about at work, is working with a purpose. But here’s something people aren’t talking about: Millennials are…

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via Inc.

Binary Fountain’s SVP of Marketing, Aaron Clifford discusses with Inc. how company purpose has transformed the customer relationship.

 

Click here to read the full article on Inc.

“Study after study indicates that what Millennials care about at work, is working with a purpose. But here’s something people aren’t talking about: Millennials are not the only people that care about purpose. Millennials may have inherited their purpose orientation from their Boomer parents, who perhaps never left behind the idealism of their 60’s youth. Even Gen-Xers, that pragmatic and enigmatic generation that traded grunge for the 9 to 5 grind, seeks purpose as they enter midlife.

It’s clear that we’re entering an age of purpose, one where ‘why you do what you do’ may be even more important than ‘what’ you do, or ‘how.’ To be relevant, organizations must first clearly define their purpose, and then seek out ways to live and communicate that purpose through the work that they do.

I recently talked to several business leaders who agreed that purpose is more important than ever, and that successful purpose transformation relies on people in three key ways.

Your Purpose Is About People

When going through a purpose transformation, it’s important to place purpose in the context of people: what your organization does for people is its purpose. Says Holly Hughes, Chief Marketing Officer of BAI, a non-profit organization that serves the banking industry and its leaders, ‘There’s an a-ha moment that comes when you change how you think about what you do. When you think in terms of people, you realize the importance and value of the work, and it personalizes it.’

Hughes should know. Perhaps no industry has been more in need of purpose transformation in recent years than banking. Following the financial market’s implosion that set off the deepest”

About the Author

Kayla Zamary
Marketing Manager

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