Discussions

Responding to Reviews on Social Media- HIPAA

Posted by Danielle B. @danielleburruss, Mon, Jul 8 3:34pm

Hello all! My organization is currently using Facebook as our main social media platform. Since my start date back in February, I've noticed that my organization allows visitors to leave reviews on our Facebook profile.

In efforts to not violate HIPAA regulations, does anyone have any recommendations as to how my organization could respond to these reviews?

Thank you in advance for your help!

Of course… I work with a lot of hospitals and one of the projects I am typically engaged for is reputation management (I am not a lawyer). You are ok to respond as long as you do not introduce new information or identify anything about the patient. Some responses that could work are things like:

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We consider it a privilege to care for and serve our community, and we welcome feedback from our patients and their families. We have shared the information you provided with our patient advocacy team, and they would like to speak with you at your convenience. Please contact (name) by calling (phone number)"

– or –

"We truly value the feedback you provided to us. Ensuring that every patient receives exceptional care is always our top priority. We have shared your information with our leadership and with the appropriate hospital staff. Please send us a private message with your contact information so that we can speak with you directly. We appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us."

If you have specific reviews you want some feedback on how to handle please reach out. Good luck!

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Both the Mayo and Cleveland Clinic have deactivated Facebook Reviews.

Patient/family feedback is a very delicate thing, especially in a very highly charged emotional environment such as healthcare/hospitals, and Facebook Reviews is a very public, blunt tool.

Simply put, if your mission involves helping people, Facebook Reviews is more likely hurt it over time than help it.

Consider deactivating it and look for other ways to receive feedback.

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I wonder who else in this community has deactivated Facebook reviews? Comment here if you have.

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@reedsmith

Of course… I work with a lot of hospitals and one of the projects I am typically engaged for is reputation management (I am not a lawyer). You are ok to respond as long as you do not introduce new information or identify anything about the patient. Some responses that could work are things like:

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We consider it a privilege to care for and serve our community, and we welcome feedback from our patients and their families. We have shared the information you provided with our patient advocacy team, and they would like to speak with you at your convenience. Please contact (name) by calling (phone number)"

– or –

"We truly value the feedback you provided to us. Ensuring that every patient receives exceptional care is always our top priority. We have shared your information with our leadership and with the appropriate hospital staff. Please send us a private message with your contact information so that we can speak with you directly. We appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us."

If you have specific reviews you want some feedback on how to handle please reach out. Good luck!

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Thank you kindly for your recommendations!

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@matthewrehrl

Both the Mayo and Cleveland Clinic have deactivated Facebook Reviews.

Patient/family feedback is a very delicate thing, especially in a very highly charged emotional environment such as healthcare/hospitals, and Facebook Reviews is a very public, blunt tool.

Simply put, if your mission involves helping people, Facebook Reviews is more likely hurt it over time than help it.

Consider deactivating it and look for other ways to receive feedback.

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This is great advice, Matthew! My organization has decided to deactivate Facebook Reviews due to the sensitivity of the information.

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Regarding alternative methods of patient feedback:

Should your healthcare CEO review every patient complaint?

Part of the founding mythology of Amazon is that Jeff Bezos would review EVERY customer complaint, and although he wouldn't directly answer them, he would forward each one to a single person with one character – the symbol "?". Apparently, it was a dreadful thing to see an email from Jeff Bezos with a simple question mark.

Q: Why not give out the CEO email for EVERY patient complaint, and then let her triage it?

A: My CEO is too busy.

HMMM. think about that answer for a moment. Your CEO is too busy to listen to every patient complaint. (think about what it would mean – my gosh – after a few weeks of reading patient complaints about several hours a day. they would have a handle on about every customer/patient issue in the organization! )

Jeff Bezos was probably pretty busy too, but he found the time. By the way, I am no fan of Amazon, but that is what Amazon and Jeff Bezos means by "Obsessive Customer Focus" and is probably one reason why Amazon is worth 980 Billion dollars right now.

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We give replies similar to @reedsmith — we find that it's a good opportunity for service recovery. Your patients are talking about you anyway, you may as well use the opportunity to at least sort of control the message.

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The problem is, because this is such an emotionally charged arena, occasionally (1/100?) you will run across a review which will directly and by name attack one of your providers or staff. Often these will border on libel, racism or sexism. Now what? Your organization has effectively enabled someone to attack their own employees.

Sure, people will find a way to say bad things, about your staff, but do you have help them out by distributing it on your own platform and putting it front and center? As an example,, say one of your Asian women physicians was attacked publicly on your Facebook Reviews site – how do you think she is going to feel fo the next few months, and how will it affect the care of her patients over those months? Or, worst case, what if the damage to her reputation results in another physician suicide?

Look, Facebook Reviews are a fabulous source of information and data for Facebook, (especially if they can correlate these posts with people’s personal health information), and there is some small potential “service recovery” upside and showing how “responsive” you are, but there is a very, very deep hidden risk with it – one which can destroy careers and lives.

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@matthewrehrl you make this point so passionately. I really appreciate your perspective and it is definitely resonating with me. Would you consider drafting a blogpost advocating turning off Facebook reviews? If you did, we could give it even broader distribution sharing on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

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@DanHinmon

@matthewrehrl you make this point so passionately. I really appreciate your perspective and it is definitely resonating with me. Would you consider drafting a blogpost advocating turning off Facebook reviews? If you did, we could give it even broader distribution sharing on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

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Sure. I will put something together over the next few weeks, but feel free to nix it if you think I go to far. IMHO it’s one of the lowest hanging fruits in healthcare for digital platform risk reduction.

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Thanks @matthewrehrl! Look forward to seeing it. We'll see if you get carried away 🙂 This same offer is available to any other community member. If you have a great idea for a blog post, let me know.

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@DanHinmon

I wonder who else in this community has deactivated Facebook reviews? Comment here if you have.

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While our individual hospitals and medical centers do have FB reviews, our corporate account does not have the reviews feature.

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Mayo and Cleveland Clinic deactivating reviews is fascinating. does anyone have documentation or articles on this?

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This is an interesting notion, and I'm curious to know more about the rationale. Most of our hospital pages DO have reviews active, and we do get quite a lot of reviews on our larger ones.

That said, we have had a few incidents where a negative review has called out an employee by name and we have deactivated reviews until we can address the individual review with Facebook. From my experience, Facebook has always deemed this to be "targeted harassment' and in breach of their community standards.

I consider Facebook to be a pretty good space to receive and escalate negative experiences, but our public and private interactions with patients through the platform are as limited as they can be. We neither confirm nor deny that service took place or elaborate on the situation at all, but encourage them to reach out to our Patient Experience team.

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I think one problem with Facebook Reviews is its acquiring unstructured data (ie comments) – which, if you think of your digital platform as part of your employees workplace, allows for an abusive workspace. Put another way, HR certainly wouldn't create a Employee Review Page on your Corporate Intranet which allowed someone to post negative comments about their coworkers for everyone to see (because that would create workplace ripe for harassment), so why do we do create this environment externally for even more people to see?

Anyway, I think there is a product solution: Facebook could create a category of Structured Healthcare Reviews which allows the Hospital to select 5-10 Questions to be rated on from 1-5 stars with no op n ended comments. The Org would get valuable data, Facebook would get some good structured data, and the patients could give feedback. An email to the a med director could also be provided here for patients that want to describe a particular situation.

Perhaps the next time the Mayo chats with Facebook they could chat about this? I suspect Facebook would love to collaborate with Mayo on a new “healthcare product” that is actually pro-privacy….

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