Mental Health Providers & Soliciting Online Reviews

Posted on May 21st, 2020 by Tom Zimmerman

The prevalence and importance of online reviews have grown immensely in the past few years. Just as you read reviews when choosing where to eat out on a Friday night, many people are turning to reviews for mental health care providers as well. As a health care law attorney in Chicago, we want to address when and how it’s appropriate for mental health care providers to build an online portfolio of positive reviews. This couldn’t be timelier, as May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Psychologists & Other Mental Healthcare Workers

There is an established Code of Ethics by the American Psychological Association (APA) that prohibits practicing psychologists from soliciting reviews from their patients. This is due to the fact that the psychologist-patient relationship has a potentially high risk of undue influence. Social workers are prohibited from doing so as well, according to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. Plus, attaching a patient’s name to a psychologist would be a breach of confidentiality.

It’s important to note that the above guidelines are not in place to completely prevent psychologists and other mental healthcare providers from having an opportunity to establish a positive online profile. It’s possible for them to establish themselves via videos and writings of their own. Additionally, colleagues and other professionals can provide reviews and testimonials vouching for their colleagues’ services and expertise.

What About Psychiatrists and Other Doctors?

There are a wide variety of mental health care providers who focus on different facets of an individual’s mental health. Specifically, psychiatrists and doctors are governed by a different overseeing board that allows them to ask patients for reviews. The Illinois Medical Practice Act also states that psychiatrists can ask patients for reviews. However, just because psychiatrists and medical doctors can ask their patients for reviews, they cannot do so if they incentivize patients. This ultimately helps protect the integrity of the doctor. Any professionals who break this rule and offer an incentive may face serious charges.

Can Medical Professionals Respond to Online Reviews?

Yes, if a review is left, it’s possible for psychiatrists and other medical professionals to publicly respond to the review. It’s human nature to want to defend yourself if a patient leaves a negative review, but you have to do so strategically in order to meet HIPAA’s requirements. Make sure to acknowledge the patient and move the conversation to a private location.

If you have more specific questions about online reviews, please contact our health care law attorney in Chicago today to schedule a consultation.

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