The use of medical 'gag orders' has received so much bad press recently that even a former vendor of the documents, Medical Justice Services Inc., has stopped recommending that doctors attempt to squelch their patients' online reviews.
Even before the December 2011 class-action suit that spurred the company's change of heart, Angie's List Founder Angie Hicks worked to warn patients against unwittingly signing away their right to free speech as a condition of receiving medical services, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article, announcing a bill that would make health providers' use of such gag orders illegal in Michigan.
Not surprisingly, Hicks has come out in support of Michigan Senate Bill 1139, which would prohibit the state's doctors from requiring patients "as a prerequisite to providing medical treatment or service" to "sign a contract or otherwise agree either orally or in writing that the patient will not post negative commentary on any public media forum about the physician, the physician's practice and expertise, the medical treatment provided to the patient by the physician, or any other commentary pertaining to the physician or his or her practice."
Sen. Rebekah Warren, along with cosponsors Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, in May introduced the bill, now before the state senate. Hicks said she'd like to see other states follow Michigan's lead.
In the meantime, some practice management experts have urged practices to actually encourage patients to rate them online.