Reviews have become an essential element of marketing a business – and a great way to engage with your past clients while also showing potential clients how you’ve helped others. But getting a client review for marketing a mental health practice can be tricky when it comes to being ethically compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Google reviews can significantly impact your search engine rankings – and whether or not someone will choose your practice over one of your competitors. But how exactly do you get a client review for your mental health practice? What are some of the ways that you can entice a client to review your business without directly asking for them? And can you actually respond to these reviews?
Here, we’ll outline a few ways to get client reviews for your mental health practice while remaining ethical and HIPAA compliant – and how to showcase these reviews to help you land new clients.
Need help getting client reviews for your mental health practice? Reach out to Beacon Media + Marketing today for a free consultation.
Can You Ask a Mental Health Client to Leave a Review?
In a nutshell, no. You cannot ask a client to leave a review because it violates specific ethical codes according to the following organizations:
- The National Association of Social Workers
- The American Psychological Association
Additionally, the organizations listed above also don’t approve endorsements or testimonials of current patients. And this is because patients may be easily influenced to leave a good review simply because they may feel pressured to do so. For example, a patient may feel that he or she won’t get the care they need if they leave less than a glowing review, and this places the patient in a difficult situation.
Further, if a client does leave a public review and they state any personal medical information, you cannot acknowledge their visit, symptoms, or treatment in your response as this would be a violation of HIPAA compliance. And any response that violates HIPAA compliance may result in large fines or other consequences.
How to Get Client Reviews for Your Mental Health Practice
As mentioned, soliciting client reviews is unethical and can easily land you in hot water for violating HIPAA compliance. However, you can make it easy for a client to leave a review. And this is also important because the easier it is for a client to leave a review, the more likely it will be for you to earn positive reviews and highlight your online reputation.
A few ways to offer a client an easy method for leaving a review are:
- Have a dedicated testimonial page where any client can leave a review, including simplified instructions to do so
- Have a list of links to leave reviews on other sites such as Yelp, HealthGrades, etc.
- Share a link to Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business)
- Have handouts or a sign in your lobby with a QR code linking to your GMB
Google loves reviews. And providing simple instructions or a link to leave reviews on your website is completely acceptable by HIPAA standards. In addition, you can also share a link to your Google Business Profile where a client can quickly and easily complete a review.
The key element to remember when it comes to current clients is that you cannot solicit or ask them to leave a review. Doing so violates ethical codes, and also places the client in a vulnerable position where they may be subject to undue influence and feel pressured into writing a review for your services.
Is Solicitation of Reviews Allowed for Former Clients?
Ethical standards are clear when it comes to current clients. However, there is a gray area regarding former clients. While former client reviews are accepted by some professional codes of ethics, some do not allow this practice, and others may find this practice questionable. And this is typically because a former client may come back for your services, and asking them for a review may then be in violation of HIPAA standards.
The thing to remember is that the rules regarding leaving testimonials and reviews are always changing. Essentially, asking former clients for a review is more often allowed whereas directly soliciting reviews from current clients is considered an ethical violation. However, in order to stay in compliance with HIPAA, you may choose to forego asking current or former clients for reviews altogether, and simply make the process of leaving a review easy and available.
Whom Can You Ask for a Review?
Nearly every ethical code allows you to have testimonials from colleagues, coworkers, vendors, academic professionals, and friends. And these reviews, though not directly from a client, also offer you the potential for generating greater brand awareness, and they offer a professional review of your work in the mental health space.
Highlighting your business reviews and testimonials from professional sources actually offers you a greater advantage because these are legitimate testimonials that can be verified. And Google loves to verify credible sources.
Highlighting Your Reviews
Believe it or not, there is an art to showcasing your reviews. Basically, if done poorly, you or your business may seem too boastful. But the key is to highlight these reviews while also being able to leverage their SEO value.
Thankfully, you have a few different options for formatting your reviews. And four of the most popular methods are:
- Featured Reviews with Attribution – having a featured review with a link to the client’s website or to the original online review site is a great way to show attribution – and to make Google happy
- Review Badges – a customer review badge or widget invites anyone who wishes to leave a review the opportunity to do so on a dedicated review site such as Yelp, Angie’s List, or Google Business Profile
- Testimonials – customer or colleague reviews in quotations are often the most popular format, and usually have a dedicated page, or may be listed at the footer of a high-traffic page on your website
- Review Aggregate Tools – Automated tools such as “Review Stream” enable you to gather your reviews from all over the Internet and post the most recent/relevant reviews to your website
Choosing the right review format largely depends on your website layout. And this is where partnering with a marketing company for website design can eliminate the guesswork on your end and leave you with a beautiful website with highlighted reviews that get you noticed.
Responding to Client Reviews
Responding to reviews not only shows your former clients that you care about their experience, it also shows potential clients – or anyone searching for a mental health practice – that you’re paying attention to what’s going on in your patient’s lives, and that you’re holding yourself accountable and taking your client’s perspective into consideration.
Perhaps the worst thing you can do is be unresponsive on a review site. This basically shows the online community that you’re not engaging or holding yourself accountable – and this can quickly ruin your online reputation.
However, when you respond to a review, you have to be particularly careful with what you say. As mentioned, if a former client divulges any of their personal medical information, even if this is a set of common symptoms, you cannot acknowledge this in your response. For example, if a client writes, “I was having anxiety and becoming depressed…” You can only acknowledge this review by stating, “Thank you for your comments.” Or something similar.
Additionally, when you come across a negative review, it is important to be apologetic and acknowledge the person leaving the review. Though you still cannot acknowledge any review that states identifiable medical information, simply offering an apology and being polite goes a long way toward keeping your reputation professional.
The Power of Reviews
In today’s interconnected world, brand awareness regarding your mental health practice is extremely important. Today, many people research a business before they ever step foot in the door, even if they’re given a referral by someone they know personally. And this is why having a marketing company at your side to help you manage your online reputation -including review responses – can be a huge asset.
A competent marketing company will know how to highlight your reviews and incorporate these into your overall marketing strategy. And this will enable you to leverage positive reviews and get more clients in the door.
Your reputation as a mental health provider can be enhanced with positive reviews. But as discussed, the trick is to remain ethically compliant while offering your clients the ability to leave a review. As such, ensuring that you’re following protocols is imperative. Just remember to make it as easy as possible for any client to leave a review if they choose.
Could your mental health practice benefit from showcasing reviews? Reach out to Beacon Media + Marketing today for a free consultation.