The Associated Press published a story today about doctors who are asking their patients to sign a standardized waiver agreement in which the patients agree "not to post online comments about the doctor, 'his expertise and/or treatment.' "
The on-line rating of doctors really took off last year, when, "Angie's List, a national consumer rating service once focused on home improvement, started offering ratings of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers," according to a story published in July 2008 by the Boston Globe.
The Globe's story also said that, "Restaurant rating empire Zagat in January (of 2008) teamed up with health benefits conglomerate Wellpoint to score doctors on criteria including availability and communication. Other health rating ventures include Vitals.com and DrScore.com, with the oldest believed to be RateMDs.com."
Doctors dislike rating systems for a number of reasons, a major one being that they usually can't defend themselves against negative comments because of medical privacy laws as well as professional medical ethics.
The rating groups, like DrScore, claim that doctors should not fight but embrace rating websites like theirs, arguing that, "Doctors can't get better if they don't know how they're doing."
Apparently that argument is failing to convince very many doctors.
The AP story tells of Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a North Carolina neurosurgeon who the AP says has created a business by helping doctors "monitor and prevent online criticism." For a fee, he provides doctors with a standardized waiver agreement, and urges doctors to turn away new patients who won't sign it.
If you were confronted with a waiver form, would you sign it or leave?
Whether having patients sign a waiver will be any good in practice is yet to be seen, at least in Maryland anyway. Last week, the Maryland Supreme Court set a very high legal bar for plaintiffs in libel suits wanting to unmask anonymous online critics.
I have never used any of these rating sites before visiting my doctors. Have any of you done so? Have they been relatively accurate or off the wall, in your opinion?
I am curious about your experiences.