Gag me with a tongue depressor

According to the Washington Post (Doctor’s Orders; Want Treatment? Just Sign This No-Complaint Contract . . .) some physicians are unhappy about online rating sites and are trying to do squelch negative reviews.

As a defensive measure, some physicians are requiring patients to sign broad agreements that prohibit online postings or commentary in any media outlet “without prior written consent.”

Critics call the documents gag orders. Many experts say they are both unethical and unenforceable…

Beth Nash, an internist employed by Consumer Reports, advises that patients dump a doctor who demands a privacy waiver. “While we have all had bad days,” she wrote on the group’s health blog, “I find it hard to believe that a doctor with multiple negative reviews has just been unlucky enough to be judged on those occasional bad days.”

I understand the concerns physicians have about these ratings sites, which is one reason I favor scientifically validated patient experience ratings and clinical quality ratings, reported at the physician practice and individual physician level. In Massachusetts, such information is available from Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, but not at the level of individual physicians.

I also think it’s useful information to report which physicians require gag orders. There could be a website devoted to that, or it could become an element of physician ratings sites.

Of course if you’re in a place like Boston where there’s a shortage of physicians relative to demand, you might as well just look to see who’s accepting new patients and be done with it. You’ll save a lot of time and angst.

July 21, 2009

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