Would you sign a contract at a supermarket checkout forbidding you to complain to friends and neighbors about its prices, services, or products? That’s what some frustrated physicians are demanding their patients do.
Monitoring ratings and reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp is part of doing business for an ever-larger number of American companies. Increasingly, patients are applying the same principle to medical services, rating their doctors on websites like Angie’s List and RateMDs.com. The physician group Medical Justice has responded with contracts that aim to protect doctors’ reputations by gagging patients. Most legal analysts believe the agreements are unenforceable, but they do make it less likely that patients will post a negative review.
Physicians complain that they cannot counter undeserved online criticism because they are bound by federal privacy regulations. Unable to get around the limits imposed by doctor-patient confidentiality, they’re trying to establish patient-doctor confidentiality as well.