Patient testimonials are a great way to market and advertise your services to the public. However, every health care practice needs to be aware of the legalities associated with using testimonials as a marketing strategy.
Federal and State Laws
Federal and state laws should be considered prior to using any testimonials to market your practice. One such law is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Pursuant to HIPAA, if a practice utilizes a patient testimonial, that practice is required to have a signed written consent from the patient.
What is required in the consent from the patient?
- That the patient is expressly permitting the practice to use their testimonials for a particular purpose.
- That the consent is for a certain period of time, or, alternatively, in perpetuity unless revoked by the patient in writing.
- That the patient is providing their consent voluntarily, without any undue influence or duress from the practice.
For convenience, the testimonial consent form can be included in the package of consent forms provided to the patient by the practice or it could be a separate form sent to patients who wish to provide a testimonial. Regardless of when it is provided, there must be a signed consent from the patient in order for the practice to utilize it for marketing purposes.
In addition, each state has their own laws that regulate whether a health care practice is permitted to use testimonials as part of their marketing or advertising. Each practice should work with their attorney to ensure the use of any patient testimonials is within the guidelines of the state law.
Whether patient testimonials will be used in digital, written or audio form, including but not limited to your website, written ads/billboards or on the radio, they must not contain any false or misleading statements. The testimonials should provide transparency on the services being provided by the practice to avoid unnecessary confusion to the public.
If a practice is prohibited from using patient testimonials for their direct marketing purposes, patients can still provide testimonials on third-party public platforms, such as Yahoo, ZocDoc, Yelp, Google, etc. Based on the individual review, a practice may decide to respond directly to the review. However, your response cannot violate the rules of HIPAA and provide any protected health information (PHI) and thus, working with your attorney prior to posting any response will protect you and your practice.
Prior to marketing your practice with the use of patient testimonials, it’s advisable to speak to your attorney to ensure that you are in compliance with all federal and state laws.