Let’s say one day after an exam and a visit in your optical, a patient reviews their experience on your Google business listing and Yelp.
The review includes many details which makes it clear to anyone reading that they visited the practice, had an exam, and worked with an optician. It’s mostly a positive review, but the patient mentions they were confused and frustrated about the out of pocket expense when checking out – they thought the entire visit and the order placed for glasses would be covered by their insurance, and insinuate that the practice is somehow in the wrong.
When you read the review, you decide to educate not only the patient but others who may read your response about vision plans, medical insurance, and co-pays. You address the patient directly, so that anyone reading the response understands that this person is indeed your patient.
After all, this is a public forum. It’s the internet. Surely the patient gave up the right to privacy by sharing all that detail about their visit on the internet, and you don’t want to see your practice portrayed in a negative light on Google and Yelp. You have good intentions! You want anyone reading that review to understand your side of the situation.
Despite the good intentions you have, when a patient shares a first-hand account of their experience with you on a public review site or on social media, this does not give you permission to publicly acknowledge that this person is a patient.
According to Abyde, a strategic partner to IDOC which provides HIPAA compliance software and education to optometry practices, patients are not held to the same restrictions as the practice and may post about visiting you at the office (on the internet) – but even if the patient posts, no practice employee is permitted to acknowledge or respond to their post or comment – even if tagged – in any way that acknowledges the patient came to the practice.
So how should you respond to an online review or social media comment?
The appropriate, HIPAA-compliant method for responding to online reviews and comments on social media is to write a generic response which doesn’t directly acknowledge the patient. Here is an example of how you could respond to the patient’s review that they were frustrated at the out of pocket expense:
"Thank you. Our mission at the practice is to provide excellent eye care and customer service. Please call or email our practice with any questions or concerns."
This response does not directly address the details of the experience and encourages the patient to contact the practice offline. It is also friendly and demonstrates that the practice cares about patient feedback.
I acknowledge the challenge you have as a practice owner or manager when it comes to interacting with patients on review sites and social media because of HIPAA, but you can be HIPAA-compliant and present a responsive, professional and friendly tone in all of your public responses which will serve your brand well.
Hayley Stewart, IDOC Financial Services Manager
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Good marketing for an independently owned optometric practice isn’t one size fits all, especially now when there are multiple generations with unique mindsets, characteristics, values and eye care needs in the United States.
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I’d like to share an incredible customer service experience I had recently.
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The Inevitable Plateau - “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress”
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The Science of Selling
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The internet isn’t usually a popular topic in conversations I have with owners and staff members of optometric practices. Dealing with reviews and competition from web-based retailers along with the challenge of creating and maintaining a website and good social media marketing may have many... Read more
Optometrists in private practice sometimes fail to offer a clear reason why someone should choose them for their vision care over competitors - on their websites or in other marketing collateral – sometimes when you try to market to everyone, you fail to capture... Read more
When working with small business owners to create marketing plans and strategies, I run across the following scenario far too often: “Hey, I’m not sure how to log in to my Google listing. My office manager used to handle that for me, and she’s not on the team anymore... Read more
“You might as well ask me to describe the essence of music, or the color of starlight.”
Did you make any New Year Resolutions? Well, I did. I do every year, and in keeping with my obsession with goals and metrics that I have professed here repeatedly, I write them down... Read more
For starters, I’m not a licensed psychologist, I just play one as a practice management consultant. It’s been my observation that whenever human beings come together in an environment where they are required to work together and interact, inevitably some tension and conflict will arise.... Read more
Your schedule has gotten busier and you’ve hired an associate OD. While you would like to keep the associate’s schedule filled most of the time, it’s not uncommon for an associate to have some gaps in his or her schedule – at least in the beginning. This often leads to some resentment by the... Read more
Before anyone panics, I am not suggesting that most practices go out and spend $80,000 or $100,000 on a COO tomorrow, or that your manager is due a large raise for 2018. I typically only recommend that type of role for multi-location practices grossing over $2M-$3M per year: practices... Read more
Sometimes it’s not the inventory you choose to carry or the reps you choose to indulge. It’s not the pricing or the shipping or the cadence of your reorders. As we head into the tail end of the holiday season, I can’t help but think of the process of opening presents.
Everyone has... Read more
Texting is an incredibly tempting mode of communication for marketing-minded businesses competing for the attention of consumers, primarily because the open rates on a text from businesses to consumers are incredibly high (98%) compared to other forms of communication (email is around 20%,... Read more
“How many frames do I need?” “How many frames should I carry?” “How much stock should I have in inventory?” It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, at least 1/3 of my consultations start the same way. I’m going to make this all very, very easy for... Read more
If you are in a competitive area, you’ve already learned that marketing is a necessity to attract brand new patients to your practice. It’s easy to confuse marketing tactics – sending email, creating Facebook posts and advertising in a community magazine, for instance –... Read more
A practice owner pulled me aside at our most recent conference in Denver to start thinking of an exit plan. I always ask two questions when these discussions come up:
“How long do you see yourself continuing to own your practice?”
“How is your retirement savings coming... Read more
A consumer-centric culture with a focus on customer service is becoming increasingly important for brick & mortar businesses. While I do believe most practice owners strive to deliver on great service, it requires a team effort. I often hear owners tell me they want to be known in their... Read more
Most businesses have polices that employees are required to follow. In general, office policies are a good idea. Policies provide structure for how to conduct business and create consistency around processes and operations. But in a service-based industry, well intended but rigidly executed... Read more
With all the talk of private equity roll-ups and regional alliances, many practice owners are concerned that if they aren’t a large, multi-office, multi-doctor practice, they don’t have a future in independent optometry.
Is that... Read more
One of the interesting mysteries that I get to unravel in many practices is the mystery of tight cash flow. Sometimes it’s obvious – a small practice with low profitability, for instance. But other times it’s not.
First off, what is tight cash flow? Here’s my simple definition:... Read more
Doctor: Would you like to order your contacts today, Mrs. Smith?
Mrs. Smith: That’s OK. I’ll just take the prescription and get them online.
What happened here? You just did a thorough, high-tech eye exam... Read more
For practices looking to grow, there are basically two paths: see more patients or generate more revenue per patient. Ideally, a practice will do both. One thing I consistently hear from ODs is that it’s hard to generate high revenue from contact lens patients. Even when selling annual... Read more
Can you find 20 or 30 minutes a week to hold a staff meeting? You might be surprised at the impact that it has on your optometry practice.
Your staff is your most valuable business asset. Your investment in optometry marketing, technology, office design, etc. will fail to deliver an... Read more
The very phrase can cause irritation, anxiety and bewilderment in the minds of owners who understand that they should somehow be participating in the conversations across the various social media platforms – but which ones are the best for optometry practice... Read more
While there is more than one way to achieve success, there are a few common traits that successful independent optometry practice owners have in common.
They refuse to accept the status quo. While others remain stagnant, ignore trends, and complain about the... Read more