Your Google reviews are an essential part of your practice’s online presence. When most of your prospective patients are searching for you online before deciding whether or not they’ll start treatment with you, ensuring that you get the most out of your Google reviews is a must.
But when it comes to Google reviews for businesses in the healthcare industry, these can be risky grounds to navigate! There are some critical guidelines, called HIPAA regulations, that your practice needs to understand and comply with when responding to your patients’ Google reviews.
Here’s why it’s important to respond to reviews and what you can and cannot say, in order to avoid a HIPAA lawsuit.
Why You Should Respond to Google Reviews
Let’s dive right in with some statistics:
- 59% of consumers use Google to read business reviews (Bizrate Insights.) Google is the most popular platform for business reviews!
- 80% of consumers consult online reviews for local businesses (Bright Local.)
- 97% of shoppers who read online reviews from other consumers also read responses from businesses (Bright Local.)
If the majority of your target audience is reading your Google reviews and your practice’s response to those reviews, it’s safe to say that responding to Google reviews is important!
- Do it for the patient experience.
Responding to patient reviews shows that your practice cares about your patients’ feedback, your practice maintains an up-to-date business listing, and you’re actively putting forth effort to right any wrongs.
- Do it for free marketing.
When your practice receives positive Google reviews, it’s essentially free marketing! Patients will post positive testimonials that speak to your patient experience, quality or level of skill, which then shows prospective patients what they have to look forward to if they choose your practice.
- Do it for local SEO!
Whether your practice responds to patient reviews, or instead ignores reviews, this will affect your local search ranking. Google favors business listings that post updated information and utilize the different features of Google My Business (like review responses!)
When reviews are posted regularly to your listing, this signals to Google that you’re a reputable business and an authority in local orthodontic treatment. Google will also detect keywords in your listing reviews to better match a user’s search with the perfect result.
If a user searches “orthodontist near me” and a number of your business reviews say, “What a great orthodontist!” “My favorite orthodontist!” “Excellent results from this orthodontist.” – Google will bump your listing in search results to match the user’s search query.
There are a number of factors that play into local search ranking – and responding to Google reviews is one of the easiest factors to optimize.
What is HIPAA and why is it so important?
HIPAA (the ‘Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’) is a federal law created in 1996. This law includes a national set of standards aimed to protect patients’ healthcare privacy.
Under the HIPAA law, healthcare businesses cannot reveal personal patient information, such as the patient’s identity, diagnosis or service rendered. This includes Google reviews, using testimonials to market your practice and all patient communications.
Are HIPAA regulations really that important? Let’s just say, a HIPAA compliance lawsuit could cost your practice anywhere from $100 to $50,000 per violation – and all the way up to $1.5 million. HIPAA is sort of a big deal.
That’s why many healthcare practices don’t even engage in marketing of any kind. Without an experienced orthodontic marketing team behind your practice, it can be risky to navigate HIPAA compliance.
How to respond to Google reviews, both positive and negative.
The main thing to remember when responding to a patient’s Google review, positive or negative, is not to share any of the patient’s personal information.
Revealing the patient’s full name, insurance information, treatment plan or cost information can land your practice in some hot legal trouble. We’ll help you avoid that at all costs!
Here are a few guidelines to follow when responding to Google reviews, as well as some Google review response examples:
- Thank the patient for their feedback, but don’t confirm that they are a patient.
Remember, it’s against HIPAA regulations to publicly confirm the identity of the patient – even if the patient confirms their own identity.
Patient review example: “Dr. Scott is the best! I’m so excited to start seeing results from my treatment”
- DON’T respond: “Thank you so much, Jan Levinson! We loved meeting you and starting your Invisalign treatment.”
- Responding with the patient’s full name and service rendered is a red flag under HIPAA.
- DO respond: “Thank you for the kind words!”
- This way, you acknowledge the patient and thank them for their review anonymously, without confirming their identity or sharing any personal information.
- Navigate negative reviews carefully by taking complaints offline.
Unfortunately, there will likely come a day when your practice receives a less-than-desirable Google review. It happens! As much as you may want to counter the review to salvage your reputation, this can actually do a lot more harm than good.
Patient review example: “Dr. Scott is the worst orthodontist I’ve seen. The wait time was terrible and the waiting room was dirty! The front desk staff was so rude.”
- DON’T respond: “Jan Levinson, this is not what happened. You only waited 5 minutes for your consultation and it’s because you didn’t fill out your patient forms ahead of time, like we requested.”
- As tempting as it may be to prove the patient wrong, whether the claim is true or not, combating a patient this way makes your practice look unprofessional and unfriendly, and it puts you at risk of a serious HIPAA lawsuit.
- DO respond: “We would love to discuss this further, as we pride ourselves on providing a positive patient experience at Scott Orthodontics. Please give our office a call at (123) 456-7890.”
- This response allows you to professionally and respectfully reiterate your practice values, without confirming that they are a patient or discounting their experience.
When it comes to negative or positive Google review responses, keeping it short and sweet is the best way to go.
Thank the patient for their feedback, but keep it vague and anonymous. Consider creating a document or spreadsheet of review responses to ‘plug and play’ as you receive reviews.
If you’d rather have a team of experts behind you, we’d love to work with you! We’ll help you navigate HIPAA guidelines and ensure that all of your marketing materials and communications comply with the law.
Reach out to us today! We’ll perform a complimentary website audit and consultation to discuss your marketing needs.