Innovations In Clinical Neuroscience

MAY-JUN 2017

A peer-reviewed, evidence-based journal for clinicians in the field of neuroscience

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Page 30 of 35

Innovations in CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCE [ V O L U M E 1 4 , N U M B E R 5 – 6 , M A Y – J U N E 2 0 1 7 ] 31 QUESTION I just searched my name online and was horrified to find a former patient's very negative review on an online physician review site. How can I get the review taken down? ANSWER Unfortunately, online reviews of healthcare providers are a fact of life today. The good news is that most online reviews are very positive. The bad news is that you have very limited recourse related to negative reviews. Confidentiality precludes you from responding—even though your patient has already told the world that he or she was in treatment with you. You cannot confirm the poster was a patient. This reality has caused frustration that resulted in some very creative, but costly, responses. What you should not do. You should not "astroturf" by paying your staff to p ose as customers and create false positive reviews to counteract negative reviews. One plastic surgeon learned this lesson the hard way, as the New York Attorney General found this practice to be "cynical, manipulative, and illegal" and fined him $300,000. 1 You should not have patients sign an agreement stating that in exchange for not talking negatively about you and/or your practice, you will grant your patients confidentiality rights, which they already have under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). One practice learned this after being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The practice had patients sign an agreement prohibiting patients from "directly or indirectly publishing or airing commentary about the physician, his expertise, and/or treatment in exchange for the physician's compliance with the Privacy Rule." OCR stopped this agreement from being used, noting that "a covered entity's obligation to comply with all require ments of the Privacy Rule cannot be conditioned on the patient's silence." 2 At least one lawsuit has been brought by a patient against a provider who required this agreement. In that case, the court found the agreement to be null and void for unconscionability and a deceptive act or practice in violation of New York law. 3 And, the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 is a federal law that prohibits non-disparagement clauses in contracts with consumers. You should not retaliate against a former patient who posted a negative review by posting a video of the patient in her underwear on YouTube and Facebook, as one plastic surgeon did. The surgeon also reportedly sent the patient an email that said, "I will damage your professional reputation, and you will be humiliated!" 4 The patient filed a licensing board complaint; the physician was able to resolve the investigation by agreeing to 24 hours of continuing medical education, including eight hours of education on HIPAA and eight hours Risk Management This ongoing column is dedicated to providing information to our readers on managing legal risks associated with medical practice. We invite questions from our readers. The answers are provided by PRMS, Inc. (, a manager of medical professional liability insurance programs with services that include risk management consultation, education and onsite risk management audits, and other resources to healthcare providers to help improve patient outcomes and reduce professional liability risk. The answers published in this column represent those of only one risk management consulting company. Other risk management consulting companies or insurance carriers might provide different advice, and readers should take this into consideration. The information in this column does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice, contact your personal attorney. Note: The information and recommendations in this article are applicable to physicians and other healthcare professionals, so "clinician" is used to indicate all treatment team members. What Can I Do About a Negative Online Review? by Donna Vanderpool, MBA, JD Innov Clin Neurosci. 2017;14(5–6):31–32

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