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Online health care reviews and privacy...insanity.


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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/27/docs-fire-back-at-bad-yelp-reviews-and-reveal-patients-information-online/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_doctorsyelp-1254pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

Basically, some patients write negative reviews of doctors online in places like Yelp and the doctors respond with information about the patients' health care in apparent violation of federal privacy laws.

I don't know the actual legal issues surrounding this, but I think that if a patient discloses information about their health care situation in these reviews, and that information is false, then doctors should be able to provide accurate information in response.

For example, one woman complained about a "misdiagnosis" of scoliosis.  The doctor responded that her daughter's examination identified two indicators and that he recommended an x-ray free of charge.  Apparently his response violated her daughter's privacy, even though the woman already told everyone online that her daughter had been diagnosed with scoliosis.  The doctor apparently "violated" the daughter "twice", according to the mother.  Once for the supposed misdiagnosis and second when he revealed the actual details of the office visit.

Seems to me that the law allows people to outright lie about a doctor, disclosing some but not all information about the visit, and they want to prohibit the doctor from responding with more information that would clarify the situation and protect the doctor's reputation.  It also seems to be that by revealing that the doctor had diagnosed the daughter with scoliosis, the woman herself was the one who disclosed the medical information and that should free the doctor to talk openly about that particular situation and the nature of the office visit.  

I wonder if the same applies to the attorney-client privilege.  In other words, if someone went to a lawyer and said, "yeah, I robbed that grocery store and I want you to help me away with it."  The lawyer recommended taking a generous plea deal.  The person gets angry and tells people, "that crooked lawyer told me to take a plea even though I told him that I'm completely innocent!"  Does the lawyer have to accept being lied about, or can he respond, "actually, you told me you were guilty and that's why I suggested a plea deal."?  

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In my experience, people with professional licenses should just take it in public.  When one has about professional obligations and oaths, those are far more important than an online review, and most referrals I get are from other lawyers, not dudes on the street.  As an example, when I was a solo practitioner, I handled a DUI for a guy who rear ended a cop car in a fast food drive through (his 3rd deuce).  I got him a plea bargain that had him only serve two non-consecutive weekends in jail when he was facing a minimum of 90 days on a straight guilty plea, or worse at trial.  ****, I got him that deal because the DA who had the case was someone I shot trap with twice a week, and the defendant seemed genuinely remorseful and willing to do the classes and change (I was new).  

 

Three days after he got out of his second weekend stint, I get a complaint on Avvo and Yelp about how I was "just there to collect a paycheck from the county." (it was a pro-bono case I did where I wasn't even paid).  I knew exactly who it was based on the review, but I also knew better than to engage the person directly, and I certainly knew better than posting information that could be personally identifying in my response.  Yeah, it sucked having a negative review, but when you have a professional license, you need to know what lines not to cross.  I went to Avvo and Yelp directly, and actually got the former to remove the review, though not Yelp because they are D-bags.  

 

The fact of the matter is, if you are in a business based on your reputation, don't argue with idiots.  

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4 hours ago, Return of the Gaucho said:

In my experience, people with professional licenses should just take it in public.  When one has about professional obligations and oaths, those are far more important than an online review, and most referrals I get are from other lawyers, not dudes on the street.  As an example, when I was a solo practitioner, I handled a DUI for a guy who rear ended a cop car in a fast food drive through (his 3rd deuce).  I got him a plea bargain that had him only serve two non-consecutive weekends in jail when he was facing a minimum of 90 days on a straight guilty plea, or worse at trial.  ****, I got him that deal because the DA who had the case was someone I shot trap with twice a week, and the defendant seemed genuinely remorseful and willing to do the classes and change (I was new).  

Three days after he got out of his second weekend stint, I get a complaint on Avvo and Yelp about how I was "just there to collect a paycheck from the county." (it was a pro-bono case I did where I wasn't even paid).  I knew exactly who it was based on the review, but I also knew better than to engage the person directly, and I certainly knew better than posting information that could be personally identifying in my response.  Yeah, it sucked having a negative review, but when you have a professional license, you need to know what lines not to cross.  I went to Avvo and Yelp directly, and actually got the former to remove the review, though not Yelp because they are D-bags.  

The fact of the matter is, if you are in a business based on your reputation, don't argue with idiots.  

I couldn't agree more with this.  Is it fair?  No.  And I've been fortunate so far (knock on wood) that I haven't received any negative reviews that I'm aware of.  But it is what it is.  You have to be better than your worst clients.  You can upend them with positive reviews anyway (most online sites allow you to request them), and if you are truly doing a good job, you'll have plenty of clients willing to do them for you.  

The other thing is, usually people who trash people online reveal themselves.  Meaning, they are so over the top and ridiculous that most reasonable people won't take them seriously.  So if you miss out on a case, even a good case, based on one of these redneck reviews with misspellings and poor punctuation and all that, you probably didn't need the case to begin with.  If someone comes to my website or blog and sees me speaking at a state conference to every attorney in my practice area, or at another conference for a trade organization, and sees my articles on changes in the law, etc., and decides not to hire me because Hillbilly Jim said I was "jus workin for teh inshurans companie anyhow," well, I'd probably rather pass anyway.  I have enough work to do.

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I'd be curious to know what is legally privileged information, and at what point is this no longer considered so?  I know in my line of work, written documents like email are no longer considered privileged as soon as they get forwarded to a third party outside our company.  But does that same standard apply to physicians with regard to HIPPA?  

 

At any rate, I do think lawyers are emotionally better equipped to deal with this type of stuff than doctors are.  Doctors are such a strange personality type.  Incredibly smart, incredibly hard working, and incredibly intellectual but knowledgable on one or two subjects only.  They are typically worse than children when it comes to handling their own emotions.  

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6 minutes ago, WORilla said:

Dammit. 

While I was reading I totally expected it to say "Dr.Johnson responded to Sally's negative Yelp review by posting her husbands extensive STD history" 

Now THATS a quality Yelp burn. I'd go to that Doctor right away. 

I always check the number of reviews from a negative Yelp reviewer.  If he has 4 Yelp reviews and they are all bad...**** that guy.  

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20 minutes ago, kicker said:

I'd be curious to know what is legally privileged information, and at what point is this no longer considered so?  I know in my line of work, written documents like email are no longer considered privileged as soon as they get forwarded to a third party outside our company.  But does that same standard apply to physicians with regard to HIPPA?  

There is almost always an exception if there is litigation, meaning, if you put your medical condition at issue, you waive any right to keep that information private for purposes of the litigation.

I see no reason not to have an "airing your own dirty laundry" exception, but I don't know if one exists.  It should, for sure.  Same with legal issues, though I still wouldn't reveal privileged information, and I still probably wouldn't reply to negative online reviews other than in the most generic terms.  "I'm sorry client _____ was not satisfied.  There were other issues involved that I do not feel at liberty to discuss here.  I did not file a lien on the case and worked hard to ensure the client could obtain other representation."  Something like that, for a truly horrible review, would be fine. 

But responding in kind is pretty much never a good idea.

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For what it's worth, when a client expresses dissatisfaction, I almost never file a lien.  I've done it once, and it was a case where I had defended a deposition and done a ton of work and the client cussed my office staff out (at the time, my wife) and hung up on us, then left several profanity laced voice messages.  I think I got paid $650 on that case or something.  Which is the exception that proves the rule -- it's almost never worth it.

I've taken to just non-repping clients the minute I start getting that nonsense.  If you want to talk to me 3 times a day and not do what I ask to improve your case, I have other clients who are interested in their own cases and are willing to do what I ask.  I've never regretted letting go of a client, and I have often regretted trying to keep one under those circumstances.  Some folks are where they are because they just can't do right.

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5 hours ago, JDaveG said:

For what it's worth, when a client expresses dissatisfaction, I almost never file a lien.  I've done it once, and it was a case where I had defended a deposition and done a ton of work and the client cussed my office staff out (at the time, my wife) and hung up on us, then left several profanity laced voice messages.  I think I got paid $650 on that case or something.  Which is the exception that proves the rule -- it's almost never worth it.

I've taken to just non-repping clients the minute I start getting that nonsense.  If you want to talk to me 3 times a day and not do what I ask to improve your case, I have other clients who are interested in their own cases and are willing to do what I ask.  I've never regretted letting go of a client, and I have often regretted trying to keep one under those circumstances.  Some folks are where they are because they just can't do right.

A good common sense approach from a lawyer where money is concerned...I like it

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