Doctors barring patients from posting bad reviews online

Worried that your patients will slam your practice in an online review? Your fears may be well founded, given the growing number of sites that collect such feedback.

While such sites have been in business for several years, historically doctors have felt helpless to prevent their practices from being targeted by nasty commentary. Lately, however, some practices are taking a new tack--asking patients to sign a form that forbids them to posting negative comments about the practice online.

One company, Greensboro, N.C.-based Medical Justice, provides doctors with a standardized waiver agreement for a fee. In signing the waiver, patients agree not to post online comments about the doctor, "his expertise and/or treatment." The company also provides suggested wording warning the patient that breaching the agreement could result in legal action.

So what if patients ignore the agreement? While in theory, doctors can use the waivers as legal leverage to force sites to take down negative comments, that may not actually be the case. RateMDs.com, for example, won't remove negative comments, contending that physician requests to remove comments aren't proper. "They're basically forcing patients to choose between health care and their First Amendment rights, and I really find that repulsive," says John Swapceinski, the site's co-founder.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this Associated Press piece

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