TLG Insider

June 2017

Help With Yelp

Customer reviews are something all business owners encounter, and it’s never pleasant when those reviews are negative.  The internet provides dozens of ways, like Google or Yelp, for customers to express their pleasure or displeasure with a business and its services.  Positive reviews can be extremely helpful to any business and can help market a business to prospective customers.  On the other hand, a business owner never wants to see an upset customer, let alone read about it and think about all the other people that are reading about it too.

Our healthcare clients need to be especially careful when considering responding to their patient’s negative online reviews.  Responding to any patient review posted online could be considered an unauthorized disclosure of HIPAA protected health information and can potentially subject the provider to HIPAA fines, adverse licensure action or privacy lawsuits.  HIPAA prevents a healthcare provider from disclosing a patient’s protected health information without authorization from the patient (the form of that authorization is a topic for another article).  Protected health information includes information that relates to the physical or mental health or condition of an individual or that identifies the individual.

By merely responding to a patient’s online review the healthcare provider likely violated HIPAA by identifying that a particular individual is in fact a patient of the provider, even if specific information about the patients’ health, condition or treatment was not provided.  Negative reviews often contain inaccurate or disparaging information and it is these reviews that a healthcare provider is most tempted to respond to.  Any healthcare provider that responds to such negative reviews in an attempt to correct the information posted online or more accurately describe whatever the patient is complaining about is opening themselves up to the risk of violating HIPAA.

Many practitioners assume that because a patient has posted information online that the patient has waived their HIPAA rights; however, a patient does not waive their HIPAA rights because they posted their own information online.  There is no exception to HIPAA that allows a healthcare provider to post information online about a patient in response to information the patient has posted online, even if that information is inaccurate.

Rather than responding to that negative review, here are a few options to consider:

1.       Increase the positive reviews on whatever forum the negative review is posted.  Positive reviews can help minimize the effects of negative reviews and can push them down the page, making them harder to find.  Encourage other patients to post their positive experience online.

2.       Just ignore it.  This one is perhaps the hardest to do, but will ensure that the healthcare provider does not run afoul of HIPAA.  Responding to a negative review can escalate the matter and may cause the disgruntled patient to post further negative reviews or make other complaints.

3.       Contact the website that hosts the review and request that the negative review be removed.  When contacting the website host you will need to be careful not to disclose any HIPAA protected information to the website host, which itself would be a HIPAA violation.

4.       Contact the patient directly.  Sometimes a negative review is simply a cry by the patient to be heard and calling the patient will provide them with a more appropriate forum to discuss any complaints.  By responding to the patient directly the healthcare provider has the opportunity to potentially resolve the patient’s complaint.  If the patient’s complaint is successfully resolved, you may consider asking the patient to take down the negative review.

Given the potential negative consequences of violating HIPAA selecting one of the above options versus responding to a negative patient review is the better choice for any provider.  Contact Thomas Law Group for assistance in crafting a response to a patient review, like one of the options above, without violating HIPAA.

Your Company as Part of Your Estate Plan

For many business owners, their business is the greatest asset in their estate plan. This is why it is vital to plan not just for the day-to-day success of your company, but also for the long-term management and transition of it, regardless of your age or stage in ownership, commonly referred to as business succession planning. Important issues to address in estate planning with respect to business interests include disability planning, appointment of colleagues to maintain the business if you are unable to do so, ownership and management rights to client books, buy-sell agreements, and funding of buy-sell agreements. Properly addressing these issues provides financial and managerial readiness for unexpected events, income stream for a disabled owner or surviving family members of a deceased owner, stability for clients and the business, and avoidance of court proceedings and probate upon an owner’s death or disability. Planning for the business goes hand-in-hand with other planning, such as trusts, wills and powers of attorney.

Additionally, after a successful sale and/or capitalization event for a professional, Thomas Law Group’s attorneys are experienced in counseling business owners and directing them in a new phase of asset and wealth management. The attorneys at Thomas Law Group can facilitate relationships and resources for clients to find the best advisors to plan for retirement and to continue a successful estate plan.

Affordable Care Act Notices of Nondiscrimination Compliance

Section 1557 of Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act imposes notice requirements to any entity that receives funds from any Federal department or agency, including Medicaid payments from the department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Covered entities are required to post a notice of individuals’ rights providing information about communication assistance for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). In general, covered entities may satisfy these requirements either by including the required notice and taglines on the significant publication or communication itself or by creating an insert to be enclosed with the publication or communication. Required notices and taglines must be included on significant publications or communications that are targeted to beneficiaries, enrollees, applicants, or members of the public and be conspicuously-visible. It is sufficient for a covered entity to provide the nondiscrimination notice in English only, but a covered entity is required to post taglines in the top 15 languages spoken by individuals with LEP, in the state where the covered entity is located, that indicate the availability of language assistance.

This Rule went into effect on July 18, 2016 and is generally applicable except to the extent that provisions of this Rule require changes to health insurance or group health plan benefit design and related matters. If this Rule impacts your business, please contact us for more information, a recommended disclosure notice, or direction on how you can remain compliant.

–  A N N O U N C E M E N T   –

We are happy to announce that Nikki Mesnard, a member of Thomas Law Group since 2015, is expanding her practice to serve both clients of Thomas Law Group and also clients from the Bexley and near Bexley area.  In her new role as of counsel with TLG, she is expanding TLG’s presence in the east side of Columbus.

 Attorney Mesnard is committed to providing the same great service and legal advice that you expect from the attorneys at Thomas Law Group.  We are excited for these changes at TLG as we continue to branch out and expand the services that we are able to provide to our loyal clients. 

–  R E S O U R C E     S P O T L I G H T    –

Mike Zaller
Agent, Central Ohio
Carr Healthcare Realty
Phone: (440) 463-4053

 Carr Healthcare Realty is the nation’s leading provider of commercial real estate services for healthcare tenants and buyers. Every year, hundreds of dentists as well as other healthcare practices trust us to achieve the most favorable terms on their lease and purchase negotiations. Our team of experts assist with start-ups, lease renewals, expansions, relocations, additional offices, purchases, and practice transitions. We save our clients a substantial amount of time and money, and ensure their interests are always first.