Online doc reviews may have privacy implications

Patient feedback and reviews have become a big part of the business of healthcare, but even the most glowing reviews can raise privacy issues if they inadvertently give away identifiable information, according to MedPageToday.

Recently, University of California’s San Diego Medical Center solicited reviews of its 500 physicians with a survey of outpatients, intending to make the results public. However, hospital leaders were forced to halt the initiative two weeks ago when they realized they didn't inform the patients that their reviews would be published, sparking concerns the patients could have included details that could be used to identify them.

"We decided that's not fair to patients ... So we've had to re-set the clock," Chief Patient Experience Officer Thomas Savides, M.D., told MedPageToday. The system hopes to relaunch in up to six months after distributing surveys that fully inform patients that the organization will publish their reviews. Had the system published the results, they could have potentially run afoul of HIPAA, according to Savides.

The development comes as large health systems increasingly post their physician star ratings online, including both positive and negative responses. Despite the number of systems posting such information, however, the range of information published varies widely from provider to provider, with some publishing ratings for all criteria from wait times to staff to courtesy while others only include feedback specifically relating to interaction with the doctor.

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