The world of social media – good or bad – has given everyone with a computer or smartphone a platform and a voice.
In the healthcare world, the ability for patients to post reviews and comments in real time can have a detrimental effect on physicians. Negative assessments (and positive ones, too) have the capability to reach thousands of people in a matter of seconds. So when it comes to reacting to some of the negative comments about a doctor or a specific interaction during a consultation, what is the best course of action?
In a recent poll conducted by Physician’s Weekly, we asked our readers how they would handle such an instance. Is responding to a negative/unsatisfied patient the right thing to do? The results were:
More than 3/4 of the respondents felt it was unnecessary to respond to negative comments from dissatisfied patients. With social media becoming more and more of a sounding board for anyone and everyone, it’s vital that medical professionals remain … professional.
Two experts from Allied World – Anne Huben-Kearney, RN, BSN, MPA, CPHQ, CPHRM; Pauline Barry, BSN, MPS, CPHRM, CPPS, DFASHRM – recently gave their opinions on this topic based on their own experience.
According to the article, “The issue is not only how, but whether the healthcare entity or an individual physician should respond at all. This creates a quandary: responding to the patient/family could be a violation of patient privacy, even though the patient or family posted their own protected health information, but ignoring the issue could be perceived as a tacit agreement with the complaints or lack of concern with the feedback.”
“The desire to ‘correct the record’ or give the other side of the story when faced with the negative online posting is natural. However, doing so may lead to an allegation of breach of confidentiality or other legal consequences.”
The authors also gave four alternative responses to a negative online posting, which included:
1. Ignore the post if the comments are generally benign.
2. Respond to significantly negative or blatantly untruthful comments with a generic statement that explains your privacy rules and your process for receiving complaints. The statement should never identify that the individual is or was a patient but only confirm that your organization was named in the posting.
3. Contact local law enforcement immediately if the posting is a threat against a specific healthcare provider, staff member or other individual. These comments should be taken seriously and require immediate action. Make a hard copy of the postings to provide to law enforcement as the posting could be deleted by the individual making the threats.
4. Notify your insurance company’s Claims Department through a Notice of Potential Loss if any comments indicate that a medical malpractice or other claim against the healthcare organization is likely.