There is always a big debate among industry experts in the aesthetic medical field as to whether a physician or practice should respond to a negative review, especially when it comes to social media. Some in the field suggest that responding to a negative review in any manner could potentially be a HIPAA violation, while others believe that responding does not violate HIPAA since the patient may have already identified themselves in the post as well as the procedure they have had. The following are Allyson Avila’s guidelines for responding to complaints or negative reviews left on practices’ social media accounts.
Do Have a Generic Response Prepared for Complaints.
The safest way to handle negative reviews is to respond in a generic fashion without actually identifying who the patient is or acknowledging that they are actually the practice’s patient – this is completely permissible. There are numerous ways that clarification can be made on a negative review. And, since reputation is everything, all negative reviews should have some form of responsive explanation.
Generic responses can include statements such as:
“At our practice, we strive to ensure that all patients are satisfied with their results and perform all procedures with diligence and due care.”
“We always encourage all patients to address their concerns, if any, directly with the practice and do our utmost to resolve any issue that a patient raises.”
“While guarantees can never be made relating to outcomes, our practice takes all complaints seriously and aims to have our patients satisfied with their care and treatment.”
These types of generic responses let the public and the complainer know that the practice is ready, willing and able to address any concerns and demonstrates that the practice takes all complaints seriously.
Don’t Avoid Responding to Complaints.
It is important to reply to complaints on social media because not responding at all acts as an implicit acknowledgment that the physician and/or practice did not perform the procedure correctly or that the complaint is valid.
Don’t Post Photos of the Client Who Commented or Made the Complaint.
It is important not to post any photographs of the actual patient who is making the complaint or criticize the patient for making the post. Such postings would only act to inflame the already-angered patient and will make the practice look less than credible.
Do Have a Practice-Wide Social Media Policy in Place.
Having a social media policy with your employees goes hand-in-hand with responding to social media posts because it is most likely that staff will be preparing the response. All employees should be instructed on how to respond to any reviews or posts and get the physician’s permission prior to posting the response. The practice should also never allow an employee to represent the practice as a spokesperson. The consequences for breaching the practice’s social media policy should be written and provided to all employees. Avila, a partner at Gordon & Rees, frequently writes social media policies for practices to guide them in instructing their staff. This protects the practice from rogue employees posting inappropriate comments on social media, for which the practice may ultimately be held liable.