Is AI Review Software for Audiologists a Good Idea?

Audiologist and robot giving each other a fistbump

If you’re of a certain age, you remember the Macarena. It was a super popular dance move in the late 1990s (or the late nineteen-hundreds, as the kids call it). This dance was so popular that everyone was doing it–from Big Bird to prominent politicians. 

Of course, these days, barely anyone remembers the Macarena. It didn’t have a lot of what you would call staying power. No one could predict that back in the 90s. When the Macarena started, no one knew how long it would last or the impact it might make.

That’s kind of where we are with Artificial intelligence (AI). Everyone’s buzzing about it, but it’s hard to know whether AI will be a reliable tool…or fizzle the same way the  Macarena did. That’s a bit frustrating, especially when it seems like AI could save you valuable time and energy. In healthcare, it’s essential to be careful when using AI because it can get you in trouble.

Should You Use AI Review Collection in an Audiology Practice?

AI is supposed to be all about saving you time and energy–and taking over your most tedious tasks. For many in the audiology field, the most logical place for AI to start seems to be handling your reviews and reputation management.

In theory, these AI programs will be used to reach out to patients, ask them questions, and offer responses in a way that helps generate positive reviews (and respond to negative ones). In theory, this is all good–it will save you the time to pour over your thoughts–or ask patients to leave reviews later. 

On the surface, this makes sense! But the more you dig into it, the more drawbacks become apparent. To understand those drawbacks, you need to know how AI works–because the name is misleading. There’s no accurate intelligence behind AI. Instead, “AI” uses a sophisticated algorithm to generate an output. This algorithm can use new data to spit out new results (the process is called “machine learning”)… but essentially, AI uses a vast dataset to drive a robust algorithm that generates results.

This means patients who enter data into your AI review software may unknowingly plug their audiology experience–including private details–into a database you have no control over. Additionally, there’s no way for AI to know it’s in a “healthcare” setting–and private information shouldn’t be discussed.

This can lead to serious concerns about patient privacy and HIPAA.

You Can’t Ignore HIPAA

Any medical or audiology practice operates under a law called HIPAA. I’m sure you’re very familiar with this already. (For the nonaudiologist readers, the idea is that HIPAA exists to protect patient’s private information.)

HIPAA will, in one form or another, cover audiology practices and any contractor the audiology practice employs. So, your handy marketing agency is also required to protect patient information (or else you might be on the hook for possible consequences).

This pertains to symptoms, treatments, personal information, and more. (If someone types, “Your clinic helped treat my hearing loss” into your AI-powered review system, you might have a HIPAA violation–especially if that chatbot is not HIPAA compliant.) 

AI Review Software May Not be HIPAA Compliant

A significant issue with AI Review Software is that most AI review platforms are not HIPAA compliant, which means that your AI may follow its algorithm and try to discuss a patient’s experience (symptoms and all) over your review software–in a public space. You can quickly see how this would become a HIPAA violation. For example, an AI chatbot may ask a reviewer: “Tell us about your negative experience.” In response, the reviewer starts talking about how their symptoms weren’t addressed, which could quickly lead to problems.

The trouble is that AI is pretty decentralized. If there’s a HIPAA violation because your AI partner isn’t following the rules, your clinic will likely be on the hot seat.

How to Handle Negative Reviews

For most industries, handling reviews is a very similar experience. But AI needs help with audiology because, as a medical field, how you take reviews is pretty specialized. Here are some excellent tips to keep in mind when it comes to HIPAA and reviews:

  • Avoid discussing any patient information in reviews. This means you should never refer to specific times, specific symptoms, treatments, or other identifiable information.
  • Keep things pretty general: Your responses should be focused on public information that doesn’t touch on patient information. 
  • Make sure to get written permission for any correspondence: For example, if a patient posts a negative review, ask permission to email them to discuss their concerns. Exercise caution, however–the less you can say over email, the better.
  • Respond privately: Look for a way to respond to any unhappy patients in a one-on-one setting. For example, you can ask if a phone call or follow-up appointment is an excellent way to communicate with a sick patient.
  • Make sure your staff knows how to handle negative reviews: It’s one thing for you as an audiologist to understand HIPAA–but it’s equally important that your team knows what to do with negative feedback–and how carefully to tread.
  • Make sure you constantly monitor reviews: You don’t have to personally check your thoughts daily (that way, madness lies). But you can set up notifications and automated processes to ensure you stay on top of reviews. 
  • Develop and establish a robust social media policy: Sometimes people say mean or nasty things on social media–you should have a policy that details how you or your team will respond (while respecting HIPAA).
  • Talk to your legal team: Like many laws, HIPAA is complicated. This means it’s a good idea to talk to your legal team before making any changes to your policy. And keep your legal team in the loop when it comes to your review policy.

Of course, artificial intelligence isn’t going to know anything about how to respond in a way that preserves patient privacy. It won’t learn these best practices. And that could put your practice at risk.

What Does a Good Review Response Look Like?

So, let’s say a patient comes in for a hearing test and leaves a review that says, “This audiologist gave me a faulty diagnosis. They said I have hearing loss when my hearing is just fine.”

  • Bad response: “Hi, when you came in for our appointment, we noticed you had symptoms consistent with hearing loss. All of our tests also indicated you have hearing loss. So, that’s the diagnosis we made.”
  • Good response: “Hi, we’re sorry you don’t feel you had a good experience with us. We’d love to discuss this over email or phone so we can do everything possible to make the situation right!”

Do you see the difference? Both responses may be factually correct. However, the “bad” response violated HIPAA by discussing the patient’s symptoms. An untested or unsupervised AI might respond with a wrong answer, as that might make sense for other industries. 

Audiology Reputation Management Done Right 

Of course, just because you may want to avoid AI for reviews doesn’t mean you should prevent automation entirely. There are plenty of ways to introduce more automation into your reputation management strategy–and this can save you both time and money without the need for risky AI solutions. 

This means you can have a robust–and lasting–reputation management strategy that helps keep patients happy–and brings new people into your audiology practice. 

If you want help making this happen, contact us at MedPB–and we’ll get started on your reputation management solution!